Southerns Beekeeping Association

Why the Buzz About Bees is More Important Than You Think

If you don’t understand all the hype about dying bees, consider this: Every third bite of food you take required a bee to pollinate it, and without bees, that food might disappear.

Bees aren’t just an annoying insect that might sting you (in fact, they probably won’t sting you at all). Bees play an enormous role in modern food production, from the transport of over one million honey bee colonies to commercial farms every year to the thousands of native pollinator species that service farms of all sizes. This amounts to $29 billion contributed to farm incomes every year in the U.S. alone; worldwide, that number explodes to around $200 billion.

And that’s not even mentioning the South African honey industry, which is currently thriving but is poised to grow once factors such as extermination and the beekeeping shortage are addressed.

Whether you love or fear bees, there’s no denying it: Bees are a critical part of our food system, and protecting our food security means protecting our bees.

But when the problems of disappearing honey bee colonies and endangered native bee species are so tied with the agricultural sector — after all, it’s common agricultural practices that are doing the most harm to bees — what is the average person to do about it?

The answer? More than you might think.

Saving bees might be one of the easiest causes for the average person to get involved in. Since bee health is tied to agriculture, and we all eat, we have direct influence over the practices that can hurt or harm bees.

So how can you influence bee health with your purchasing power? For starters, supporting the local bees means supporting the local efforts. When protecting the environment is a priority, spending a little more for locally grown, pesticide-free produce makes sense. Consider getting your greenery from the farmers market, a CSA share, or a food co-op instead. In addition, when it comes to stocking up on that tasty honey treat, purchase from local bee farms as opposed to international imports.

But one of the best ways to help bees doesn’t involve a lot of money, and it’s a lot of fun: Plant a garden.

While any garden is a good start, the best kind of garden for bees is a pollinator garden. And if you’ve never touched a garden trowel before, it’s also the best garden to try out your green thumb.

Since pollinator gardens rely on native plants and trees that are already perfectly adapted to your region, they’re hard to mess up. Native plants are species that have evolved to grow in the specific rainfall and soil type of your local environment. That means you don’t have to worry about watering or composting nearly as much as you would with a regular flower or vegetable garden.

Plus, you can create a pollinator garden in any size space. If you live on acreage, commit a section of the property to wildlife habitat filled with native grasses, flowers, shrubs, and trees. Even balcony gardens can significantly contribute to the health and wellbeing of the local bee population. You can grow flowering shrubs and wildflowers in containers, cascade native vines out of a windowbox, or even install a hanging garden on an exterior wall.

If you’re ready to dive into creating a pollinator garden, create a plant list that includes native flowers, shrubs, trees, and grasses. Aim to have at least one species flowering in each season except winter, and cluster a few of each plant together to make them easy for hungry bees to find. Incorporate different flower shapes and sizes, and have fun arranging them into a stunning display that you’ll enjoy as much as the bees do.

Image via Unsplash

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