Bees are in trouble. The number of bee colonies managed by professional and hobby beekeepers in the United States has plummeted in the past 20 years, thanks in part of the introduction of a non-native mite. The increased use in pesticides is playing a role, and so is the continued loss of habitat.
It isn’t just bees that are facing tough times. A host of other pollinators, butterflies in particular, are also seeing population declines.
Bees and butterflies, along with other pollinating insects, play a vital role in fruit production and they are a necessary ingredient in the lives of many plants. Those plants provide food for a variety of wildlife. That’s why we need to give pollinators a helping hand.
One of the easiest ways is to plant flowers and flowering shrubs and trees. Use a variety of species that bloom at different times of the year. It’s a good idea to plant numerous plants of a single species, too. Even better, choose native plants. If you have the room and the means, consider planting a large wildflower meadow with a variety of flower species. Remember, diversity is always good.
Food plots can also help pollinating insects. White clover is a high-quality plant, especially for bees. So is crimson clover. Walk through a field of clover in bloom and you’ll be greeted by the steady buzz of bees and other pollinating insects. Those insects also serve as a food source for turkeys and other birds.
Flowers don’t just provide a food source for bees and other pollinators. They add a vibrant splash of color to any setting. Whether a small corner in your backyard or a sprawling field of native grasses and flowers, you’ll get as much benefit from them as the birds and the bees. Cut some for your kitchen table, but be sure to leave plenty for the bugs.
Reduce Pesticide Use
Aside from planting lots of colorful flowers, landowners and others interested in protecting pollinating insects can refrain from using chemical-based pesticides. Sevin, one of the most common pesticides, is extremely harmful to bees.
If you must use them, apply pesticides in the evening when inselcts are less active. Also, avoid using dusts or wettable powders. They are easily carried back to the colony and will likely kill the queen. That can spell the end of the entire colony.
Consider using organic pesticides or simply allow some “undesirable” insects to live in your garden. Lady bugs, praying mantis and spiders all kill other bugs, so consider making your garden attractive to them, as well.