June 17-23 is Pollinator Week, celebrating pollinators and spreading education about what we can do to protect them. We’ll be celebrating pollinators all month long in the form of bees! Our community outreach for June is supporting the Oregon Bee Project. Oregon Bee Project is a collaboration between the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Oregon State University Extension Service, and the Oregon Department of Forestry focused on uniting Oregonians around a science-based strategy for protecting and promoting wild and managed bees. They provide plant lists and land management resources, host outreach events, fund research, and work with farmers and the public to implement effective bee-friendly practices.
Why are bees important?
70 out of the top 100 human food crops are pollinated by bees, supplying about 90% of the world’s nutrition. In addition, insect pollination makes food production more successful and more nutritious. Research shows that if pollination is managed well on small diverse farms, crop yields increase by 24%. If a crop has been well pollinated, larger and more nutritious leaves, fruits and seeds will develop. Plants naturally tend to put more of their growing energy into well-pollinated flowers and fruits thus increasing their quality, taste and nutritional value. The result is more nutrition per ounce of food, as well as more food produced in total.
What’s hurting bees?
Bee populations are in a steep decline. A combination of factors have created an environment increasingly inhospitable to bees, including monocropping and pesticides. Neonicotinoid insecticides in particular are highly toxic to pollinators (or any invertebrate) at very low doses. Neonics are a nerve poison the effects of which range from lethal to chronic. Chronic damage can include: impaired sense of smell or memory; reduced fecundity; altered feeding behavior and reduced food intake including reduced foraging, difficulty in flight and increased susceptibility to disease. Weakened immune systems have made diseases and parasites increasingly dangerous and debilitating for bee colonies. Poor nutrition is also contributing to the rates of bee deaths due to monocropping, the practice of planting one kind of crop over many acres of land. Bees, like humans, require a varied diet in order to stay healthy.
How can we help?
Fortunately, there are many things we can do to help bees!
Avoid using neonics. Here is a list of the most commonly used consumer gardening products that include neonics. Avoid using these products to keep your garden healthy for bee populations.
Plant a bee-friendly garden. Planting flowers, blooming trees, and providing water sources for bees to hydrate are all great easy ways to make a positive impact. Plant varying flower types in patches. Variety is good, but bees like to feed on one type at a time. Consider planting a blooming tree. Trees provide bees with thousands of pollen sources in one. Additionally, tree leaves and resin provide nesting material for bees, while their natural wood cavities make excellent shelters. Some bees make their homes underground, so leave some part of your yard un-landscaped.
Create a bee bath. Fill a shallow bird bath or a small dish or bowl with clean water, and arrange pebbles and stones inside so that they poke out of the water. Bees will land on the stones and pebbles to drink the water as they take a break from foraging and pollinating.
Buy local, raw honey. By buying local raw honey, you support local beekeepers and their bees. Unlike pasteurized honey, raw honey comes straight from the hive and is unheated, unpasteurized and undiluted, which means it retains all the antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and delicious flavor.
Celebrate Pollinator Week with us!
We’ll be helping bees all month long by selling stickers and buttons. Proceeds will go to The Oregon Bee Project, and you’ll be helping to spread the word! Straight monetary donations can be accepted as well. If you’d prefer to donate online, you can do so here.