Since 2006, when people started counting, it is estimated that the honey bee population in North America has declined by up to 70% due to colony collpase disorder, in which the worker bees in a colony suddenly disappear and the colony dies.
The same thing is happening in Europe. Nobody knows just why the bees are disappearing, but everyone agrees that it’s definitely worrisome, since bees pollinate most fruits and vegetables as well as a wide variety of flowers, trees, and grains. You don’t even want to contemplate what life would be like without them.
Farmers, scientists, and beekeepers are scrambling to keep the bees alive and to find out what is causing the problem. Suspects include pesticides and chemical fertilizers, air pollution, global warming, viruses, micro waves, stress, malnutrition, loss of habitat and dozens of other things– some logical, some not.
How You Can Help
Research is underway but in the meantime there are a few practical things we can all do to help. As a practical measure, we can make life easier for the bees by planting gardens and lawns filled with lots and lots of their favorite flowers. A wildflower meadow instead of a suburban lawn, once established, is less work and creates a lower carbon footprint than a conventional grass lawn.
Think about turning your lawn, which needs to be fed, fertilized, weeded and mowed into a wildflower meadow– less labor intensive, more natural, and paradise for butterflies, birds and bees. Think of the photo ops. Imagine being able to retire the old mower and never having to fertilize or feed your lawn again.
Converting a conventional lawn to wildflowers will take about three years. The first year, just stop feeding and weedkilling. Keep mowing weekly during the summer to weaken the grass. Some wild flowers and weeds will spring up. Pull up the weeds and let the flowers bloom. During the second year, add wildflower seedlings (not seeds). Many wildflower nurseries will supply these. Since wildflowers are perennials, they take about three years to really take hold. You are better off getting seedlings a year or two old than broadcasting seed which can easily be choked out by weeds.
By year three you should have a blooming meadow in your back yard that is no mow and home to birds, butterflies, and most importantly, a haven for bees.
Did you see “Bee Movie”? We really need bees!
The bees will thank you if you put in a wildflower meadow. In fact, I’ll bet you’ll be the “bee’s knees” in your neighborhood.