Help the Bees, Our Most Important Pollinator
With the arrival of spring here in Northeast Ohio, the flowers are starting to bloom, the birds are busily making nests and we are finally able to enjoy the beautiful spring weather. Now also is the time when the pollinators, like our good friends the bees, are making their debut.
Ohio is home to roughly 500 native bee species and there are 4,000 different species native to North America.
According to an article from the Ohio State University Extension called “Attracting Pollinators to the Garden”, bees are the most important pollinator, because they are “uniquely adapted to gather and transport pollen.” Bees seek out flowers in order to feed their young and the western honeybee pollinates the majority of our crops.
With spring also comes swarm season for bees. According to the Tuscarawas County Bee Club’s website, swarming bees are not to be seen as a threat; they are simply looking for a new place to call home. People often see these bees swarming on their homes or somewhere in the yard and decide to spray them. Spraying them is not the best idea, because our most important pollinator is on the decline. The best plan is to contact a local beekeeper to assist in relocating the bees.
President Barack Obama in 2015 launched a plan to help curb the decline of bees and other pollinators. According to a National Geographic article called “Obama Unveils Plan to Reverse Alarming Decline of Honeybees,” from 2005 to 2015 more than half of the managed U.S. honeybee colonies disappeared. Pesticides, fungicides, viruses and other factors have contributed to the honeybees’ decline.
In 2014 President Obama created the interagency Pollinator Health Task Force, the article states. The 64 page report from the task force cites two key ways to save bees. The two ways are reducing honeybee losses during the winter when they are the most vulnerable and setting aside federal land to preserve habitats for all pollinators.
A 2012 study at Cornell University estimated that bees and other pollinators contribute $29 billion annually to the U.S. farm income by pollinating 58 crops, the OSU Extension article states. We can’t lose the bees, because without them our crops won’t be pollinated.
So this begs the question, what can gardeners do to help our friends the bees? First off, Gardeners can help these pollinators by providing plants and nesting sites and changing their gardening practices to protect these pollinators, the OSU extension article states. Gardeners can group plants together in areas with a lot of sun in order for the bees to find the flowers and use less energy to locate them.
Different flower shapes and colors attract different pollinators, the OSU Extension article states. Bees are attracted to daisy-like flowers, because the bees are able to get the nectar and pollen in the shallower flowers. Gardeners also can plant flowers the bloom throughout the growing season, from early spring to late fall, so bees always have a food source.
In my garden, the bees love the Bee Balm, Lavender, Echinacea or also known as the Coneflower and Catmint. A fun fact I learned from my Mom is bees like dandelions. As much as we hate having them in our yards, dandelions are a source of food for bees until the first flowers of spring appear in your garden beds. I am not a fan of those pesky weeds in my yard, but I can keep them for a little while to help our buzzing little friends.
Another tip for the garden is having a water source, especially in the heat of summer for the bees. The OSU Extension Article recommends a bird bath or a shallow bowl with sticks placed in the water as a place for the bees and other pollinators to perch.
We can all do our part to help our honey-making pals, because without these pollinators flowers and crops will cease to exist. We need bees more than we know. Who knew a bee could hold so much power.
Do you have an interest in bees, beekeeping or honey? If so, consider joining the Tuscarawas County Bee Club. The club meets on the second Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Winfield United Methodist Church. According to the club’s website, they promote the practice of beekeeping in Tuscarawas County and provide educational and social opportunities for its members and guests. The members maintain 100 apiaries throughout the county and produce honey and bee’s wax products annually.
If you find a swarm in your yard this spring, the club has a honey bee rescue tab on their website with a list of local members you can call to retrieve the bees. Visit their website at www.tuscarawascountybeeclub.com for more information.