HEALTHY PLANTS START HERE
Why are we losing our
Have you noticed that you don’t see
as many honey bees around as you
Are you seeing fewer bees on your white clover, in your garden, and on
your flowers? Well, that’s because there ar
e fewer honey bees in the United States
than there have been since the 1950s.
Why are there fewer bees?
Mites and pesticides. Two parasitic mites – the tracheal mite and the varroa mite-
are like little blood-sucking vampires on the honey bees. The mites were introduced
to the U.S. in the 1980s. The mites feed on
bee ‘blood’ and will eventually kill the
bee. Infected colonies of bees lose stre
ngth and in time the colony will die.
Beekeepers treat their hives with
chemicals to kill the mites and keep
the colony alive as long as possible.
Despite the effort that beekeepers
make to keep honey bee colonies
alive, millions of colonies have died.
Since 1990 we have lost one quarter
(almost 1 million) of all managed
honey bee colonies. And in recent
years, some areas have lost almost
100% of their wild honey bee
colonies. Wild honey bees cannot
survive because there is no
beekeeper to medicate them and
make sure they live. So it’s no
wonder you’re seeing fewer honey bees!
Why do fewer bees matter to me?
Food and flowers! One-third of our diet
is made up of foods that require or
significantly benefit from pollination by ho
ney bees. Those foods include everything
from apples to tomatoes to cucumbers. Ho
w boring would your diet be without the
fruits and vegetables that need to be pollinated by bees?
If you grow your own fruits and vegetables
you might already know what fewer bees
mean to you. Have you ever had very few or
very small apples on your trees? Small,
C-shaped cucumbers? Raspberries that
aren’t properly shaped? These are all
problems with pollination. When bees pollin
ate flowers they help seeds grow. Plants
grow the best fruits when there are lots of seeds on the inside of the fruit. Fewer
pollinating bees mean less pollination, less pollination means fewer, smaller fruits.
Even when we realize what honey bees me
an to our food supply, we still need to
think about the pollination that goes on
in the wild. Scientists haven’t even
calculated what bees and other pollinators mean to wildlife and wild spaces.
What can you do?
Protect pollinators! Help the bees!
Don’t use unnecessary pesticides.
Bees are sensitive to chemicals. Don’t spray
pesticides on blooming plants because when
the bees are visiting the flowers they
might accidentally get into the pesticide. Wh
en you do need to use a pesticide, try to
use one that is not toxic to bees and spray when bees aren’t around.
Provide nesting sites for bees.
Honey bees nest in hollow trees and other
cavities, so if you can leave that space fo
r them, please do. You can provide nesting
sites for other bees (like bumble bees
and leaf-cutter bees) by drilling holes in
untreated lumber and putting the lumber
in a warm, sunny area. Chances are
pretty good that bees will move in and use
those boards as nests. You can also leave
brushy areas undisturbed so bees can keep their nests from year to year.
Provide food sources for bees.
The flowers in your gard
en are a great source of
pollen and nectar for busy bees. Plant a
variety of flowers that will bloom from
spring through fall. You can get a list of
bee-friendly plants from your County
Appreciate and protect the pollinators you already have.
might not like the carpenter bees that use your porch as a nesting site, they are out
there pollinating your garden! If you thin
k about how important bees are, then
hopefully you won’t spray them with insect
icides. If bees are a problem where they
are now, then try to make another nesting site more attractive to them.
Become a beekeeper!
Beekeepers, like all of us, are getting older. The problem
is that like other farmers in the U.S., th
ey aren’t ‘replacing themselves.’ That
means that beekeeping experts are retiring or
dying and there aren’t other people to
take their places. Most beekeepers are nice
people who are very excited to share
their knowledge with newcomers to the field. Contact your County Extension Office
to find out if there is a beekeeping group in your county.