Farming’s mission to sustain the pollinator population
As seen in the Tried & True Spring 2022 issue
Bees are essential. They pollinate plants that feed the world and help maintain a balance between other species and the environment. By carrying pollen from one plant to another, other pollinators like butterflies, birds and bats also contribute to food production. However, with the population of bees declining by 30% each year, researchers have battled to understand why.
Bee advocates are coming to terms with the reality of the species loss to the ecosystem and, in turn, our food supply. In short—humans need bees. Statistics show that 70 of the top 100 food crops produced globally require pollinators. Researchers have shown that 2% of wild bees contribute 80% of total crop pollination. Losing that small number of bees would mean the collapse of our food system. No more bees would mean no more apples, avocados and other crops that rely on pollinators to reproduce. With food shortages and growing populations currently contending with food scarcity, we need to protect bees and their pollinating cohort of friends now more than ever. Yet the question remains: why are the bees missing?
Threats to the bees survival are real, and that’s something we at Fratco take seriously. Climate change, habitat loss and—most pressing—pesticides all impose threats. Many farmers and gardeners use pesticides to protect their crops to help them flourish. The irony is that doing so harms bees and plants need their buzzing helpers to grow. Some crop chemicals can affect a bee’s nervous system, which can mean death or lead to a chemical disorder where they become confused and cannot find their way back to their hives. When bees do not return, colonies collapse, and that’s the end of their habitat.
GROW BEE-FRIENDLY PLANTS
Grow bee-friendly plants and utilize flowers around garden beds that attract different pollinators. Sunflowers, honeysuckle, foxglove, coneflower, butterfly bushes, strawberries, squash, lavender and crab apples are just some of the items well-loved by bees, butterflies and even hummingbirds.
PROVIDE FRESHWATER SOURCES
Provide a freshwater source for thirsty bees. In drier climates, ponds and fountains quench thirst and allow them to get back into the pollinating game quicker. It’s another reason why having good drainage in your garden is important too.
LEAVE IT ALONE
Undisturbed sand or an un-mulched area of your garden creates an opportunity for native bees to nest. Native bees don’t live inside hives but in underground areas. If you can tolerate a little “leave it alone” method of gardening in one of your beds, you’ll provide ample opportunity for bees to thrive.
PLANT LOCAL VARIETIES
Local plants meet local pollinator needs—research which ones work best in your area’s climate and soil. You can search the web or visit your local gardening center for tips and advice on local planting.
PLANT FOR EVERY SEASON
Choose plants of all shapes, colors and sizes that bloom from early spring until late fall. Creating gardens filled with various plants and flowers will help pollinators find your space.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT BUTTERFLIES
Milkweed has a fantastic scent and acts as a butterfly magnet. The more you plant, the better a Monarch’s chances are to find food and lay their eggs. That means there will be more butterflies to help bees do the work, flipping the 90% decline in the Monarch population into a growth direction.
Seek out plants and seeds not pretreated with pesticides. Smaller, locally owned garden centers are a great place to investigate and ask questions. Their knowledge is vast, and you’ll be helping a small business while saving the bees— win-win!
Sources: Pollinator Partnership, Successful Farming, One Green Planet and National Resources Defense Council