Tuesday October 10, 2017
Who doesn’t like honey? Most of us enjoy the sweet sticky goodness and medicinal properties that honey provides. We would not have honey to enjoy if it wasn’t for the humble bee. The most popular bees know to us are the honeybee and the bumble bee. In addition to the most loved honeybee and bumblebee, there are about 4,000 species of native or wild bees in the continental U.S. These include carpenter bees, sweat bees, and leafcutter bees just to name a few.
How bees do their job:
Bees pollinate the plants around us. Pollination occurs when pollen is transferred from one flower to another flower of the same species. When pollen gets transferred to the second flower, it becomes fertilized. When a flower is fertilized, fruit and seed production can take place. Bees receive protein from flower pollen, and carbohydrates from the flower's nectar to make honey.
Proper pollination results in large, healthy fruits. Poor pollination results in deformed fruits that often drop off before ripening.
Can we do this job ourselves? Yes. However, bees, birds, bats and other insects can do a far better job of pollination than we can.
Honeybees and wild bees are the most important pollinators. There are approximately 100 different crop species that provide 90% of our global food supply. Of the 100 species, 71 are bee-pollinated. Bees are not just important, we can’t live without them.
Did you know? Approximately, 1 out of every 3 bites of your food depend on bees?
Bees in peril:
Honeybee colonies are dying at alarming rates. According to the Pollinator Partnership, the United States have lost over 50% of its managed honeybee colonies in the past 10 years. Here's another statistic: Since 2007, an average of 30% of all colonies have died every winter in the US. In the winter of 2012-13, 29% bee colonies died in Canada and 20% died in Europe.
Scientists believe contributing factors include: parasites, diseases, exposure to pesticides, and the reduction of plant diversity due to commercial agriculture and lack of crop rotation. Scientists fear that habitat loss might be limiting the bee's ability to get the full range of nutrients they need from limited pollen sources.
Plants such as apples, almonds, blueberries, oranges, lemons, melons, pears, and squash (just to name a few) are in peril. This doesn't include the plants used to make clothing and feed animals. Albert Einstein predicted that if bees disappear from the globe completely, the human race would die within 4 years. We have to do something to save the bees!
How Gardeners Can Help:
Diversity: Different pollinators are active at different times of year. Include in your garden a variety of plants that bloom all year round such as trees and shrubs in addition to your regular flower or veggie garden. Wild and native plants are best as hybrid plants usually produce less than normal pollen for bees to use.
Plant single flowers (only one row of petals) compared to double flowers which are more difficult for bees to reach the nectar. Flowers that are blue, purple, and yellow are much more attractive to bees than pink and red flowers.
Flowers that Bees Love:
- Bee Balm
- Wild lilac
Backyard beekeeping: Many cities hold free classes teaching bee lovers how to care beehives. At the end of the class, you can received a certificate to obtain a hive of your own to care for. Not able to do so? Sponsor a hive that is cared for by your neighborhood or school.
Bee careful where you buy plants and flowers:
Tim Brown, a chemist at the Pesticide Research Institute said: "People are being encouraged to help the bees out, and unfortunately what we found is that sometimes these flowers are contaminated at pretty high levels.”
Over half of the "bee-friendly" plants from big box stores across the U.S. and Canada contained high levels of neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids are toxic not only to bees but butterflies too. Even if neonicotinoids don’t kill bees directly, neonicotinoids can affect the bee's sense of navigation. This can cause bees to get lost going back to the hive and starve. If the lost bees die of starvation and can’t navigate to the hive, the whole beehive is in peril. Neonicotinoids are water-soluble and can take years to break down. “If one potted plant is highly contaminated, then when it’s planted, it’s very likely that nearby plants will take up these insecticides following a heavy rain or watering,” said Tim Brown.
Sustainable gardening methods such a crop rotation and row covers can reduce pests naturally without the need of using pesticides such as neonicotinoids.
Compared to normal bee pollination, noni trees work a little differently. Noni trees make the fruit first and then flowers. Each noni fruit can product 50-75 flowers. Despite this unusual occurrence in nature, the bees love our noni trees.
We need good, clean food, and so do the bees. If bees do not have enough to eat, we won't have enough to eat either. Join Hawaiian Organic Noni in practicing safe, clean, sustainable gardening. Together, we can save the bees and our planet!