Of late when we hear anything about bees, it’s usually scary press. We hear that their colonies are collapsing and that they’re feeling pressure from pesticides, diseases, habitat destruction and insects that attack their hives. When we hear about ways our world is changing, it can seem insurmountable. It can be hard to listen to the bad news because it keeps coming and we may feel that we can’t do anything about these large-scale shifts. In spite this, believe we can help through some simple key actions.
When it comes to bees, especially honeybees, our wellbeing depends on their survival and indeed the ecosystem services they provide for us, pollination being chief. We have a long-term relationship with bees as they provide much of the pollination needed to get our food turned from a flower into a fruit, for example. In fact, a study done in California found that “native bee species pollinate between 35 and 39 percent of California’s crops and contribute at least $1 billion to its agricultural economy.” For economic reasons alone this is certainly an issue important to humans! Regardless, we wont survive very long in a world without pollinators.
To help Bringbackthepollinators.org suggests:
- Grow a variety of pollinator-friendly flowers (I’ll list some awesome options below.)
- Protect and provide bee nest sites and caterpillar host plants.
- Avoid using pesticides, especially insecticides and
- Spread the word
Pesticides are one of the biggest threats facing bees (and insects) and they often live in the environment long after they’re sprayed, meaning that we aren’t even completely aware of the negative effects that continue to have ripples for years to come. In order to be an ally to our pollinators, stop using them! You can transition part of your yard to a pollinator habitat instead and you won’t have to worry about spraying.
Establishing a pollinator habitat
Studies have shown that wildflower or native plant “strips” planted at the edges of lawns or farm fields greatly benefit pollinators and they can increase pollination in nearby crops (a boon to farmers). This can be as easy as buying one or two plants a year at a native plant sale and putting them into your existing landscaping or you could dig up a portion of your yard and dedicate it to the pollinators. You’ll also find the added benefits of beauty and delight that come from watching bees and insects!
Some species that bees especially love that I love to witness around our homestead include:
Wild Oregano: aka Bee Balm, there are many native species of this plant and it also comes in a diverse array of bright flowers. It’s easy to grow and comes back year after year. The leaves and flowers are also a great medicinal tea.
Anise Hyssop: Neither a true anise or hyssop, this plant is a stunning plant in the garden that blooms nearly all season long. Out of all of the plants in my garden, this one had the most pollinators on it at all times. It is also easy to grow, comes back each year and produces a delicious medicinal tea from the leaves.
Purple Coneflower: another native that is very well known. Echinacea is a drought hardy, easy to grow (it spreads!) beautiful medicinal plant that is a boon to pollinators. Often I would spy bumble bees on our coneflower.
Mints: These are easy to grow useful plants that also spread (you can grow them in a pot by the house as well.) Pollinators love the mints and, again, they produce a wonderful tea for humans (a theme!).
Clovers: This is as easy as taking a trip to the local feedstore. We get bulk clover seeds and sow them all over the homestead. They not only provide a living mulch and attractive nitrogen-fixing groundcover, but bees, butterflies, beetles & flies love them. They’ll come back year after year and you can even substitute some of the grass in your yard with them. Their dried flowers provide a healthy nourishing tea.
These are some of our favorite and easiest to grow suggestions for starting off your pollinator habitat. To find out more, you can google “Beneficial Pollinator Plants” and find more suggestions! While beautifying your space, you’re also helping our bees and other winged ones! A win-win!