Friday, August 18, 2017

Saving The World, One Backyard at a Time



Saving The World, 

One Backyard at a Time

Guest posting: by Christy Erickson (SavingOurBees.org)

Did you know that you can help save the world in your own backyard? It’s true.

By creating a pollinator garden in your own backyard, outdoor patio, or even the balcony of your condo or apartment, you can help support native honey bee populations. These honey bee populations help our economy and global ecosystem.

But how, and to what extent?

According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), honey bees are responsible for an estimated 15 billion dollars in added crop value due to their function as chief pollinators. This equates to nearly 84 percent of crops grown for human consumption--or one out of every three bites you eat. In other words, bees are performing the manual labor that allows us to have our bowl of cereal in the morning, our sandwiches at lunch, and our pasta for dinner. Not only that, but they are also responsible for a good deal of cotton that we wear and use daily. If we add it all up, around 250,000 species of flowering plants rely on the transfer of pollen, a function that bees dutifully serve every year.

But these hard working invertebrates dressed in black and yellow need our help. A recent article by Time has reported that nearly 700 North American bee species are headed toward extinction due to the use of harmful pesticides, the loss of habitat and climate change. According to the cited study, 1 in 4 native bee species are in duress, and 40 percent of insect pollinators are currently threatened. According to another study done by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, bee populations have declined by 30 percent over the past decade.

The Environmental Protection Agency has given other reasons for this decline in bee populations, one of which is Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Colony Collapse Disorder occurs when the majority of worker bees abandon their queen, resulting in the collapse of the hive in the following winter. While harmful pesticides are cited as the number one cause of CCD, other factors such as the parasitic varroa mite have also been cited as a contributing cause.

Regardless of these adverse conditions, a simple pollinator garden can help your local bee populations to thrive.

The Forest Service recommends using a wide variety of plants that bloom from early spring into late fall, and to use plants native to your area. Native plants have adapted to your specific climate, soil, and region, and have a higher chance of success. There are several ecoregions in the United States, and many options for blooming native plants, so be sure to do your research to find the best fit for your situation. Just remember, a little effort goes a long way—250 honey bees are enough to pollinate an entire acre of apple trees!

It is also advised not to use any pesticides when planting a bee-friendly pollinator garden. Weeding by hand provides the least harmful alternative to pesticides, and also allows you to get the benefits of exercise. If you must use a pesticide, consider an organic alternative. Read the instructions carefully, and use them at night when bees and other pollinators are inactive.

If you enjoy year-long color in your pollinator garden, consider planting a few evergreen shrubs or trees. Evergreen trees have leaves throughout the year and are always green. Some examples evergreens are pine, hemlock, oak and red cedar. These can also serve as habitats for your honey bees.

Leaving dead trees or limbs in your yard offers a home for bees to nest. It is also possible to use a hose or irrigation line to create a nesting site for bees. By adding a bit of sea salt to a muddy area in your yard, you can create potential nesting sites for honey bees and other pollinators, such as butterflies.

Just remember, you (with a little help from your backyard and some care!) can help save the world!

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Author: Christy Erickson (SavingOurBees.org)