The stigmatization of a bee sting has led people to ignore the beauty of bees and the importance of their role in the maintenance of biodiversity on Earth. Bees are a gift to nature, wildlife, and help in maintaining our biodiversity. After going through this article, you will understand why we should care for bees and how we must find ways to fight for their survival on Earth.
Why are bees important for the environment?
After reading the heading you might be wondering: ‘What makes bees so special, and how do they contribute to maintaining our biodiversity?’
The truth is that about 30% of crops and 90% of plants on this planet exist because of bees. Yes, they are THAT important. We have supported this clause with several facts that justify this statement. Let us have a look:
- Pollination – Pollination! Pollination! Pollination! Has your chapter on Botany in your Biology book never taught you that? Well, we are here to remind you about what pollination is and how bees contribute to it.
Bees fly from one flower or fruit to another in search of nectar, which they feed on. While sucking on the nectar of one part of the plant, pollen grains get stuck to their legs. Then they carry the pollen to another part of the same plant (pollination), or to another plant (cross-pollination).
- Maintaining Biodiversity – The variegated aspect of our biodiversity is curated and maintained by the activities that bees contribute to, as well as their performance in the maintenance of the food chain.
I’m sure we all don’t need an explanation of how significant the maintenance of our food chain is for the continued sustenance of our environment.
So, what role do you think bees play in maintaining this? Biodiversity is an amalgamation of complex, intricately related ecosystems, and bees play a vital role in contributing to this diversity.
Due to their function in cross-pollination, they can cross-pollinate between separate species of flowers and fruits, thereby allowing the formation of hybrid species in herbs, grasses, as well as fruit trees, that facilitate a balance in nature.
- Sustaining Wildlife – This point is an extension of the food chain function. Bees aid in pollination, that facilitates the growth of seeds, nuts, berries, and fruits. This vegetation is considered the prime food source for wild animals.
Not just animals, around twenty-four species of birds rely on bees for their dietary requirements. Birds like ruby-throated hummingbirds and blackbirds consider bees into their diet regimen for their survival. The same is the case with a dragonfly or a praying mantis.
The pollination function carried out by bees aids in the growth of natural vegetation areas like the savannah woodlands, temperate deciduous forests, and tropical forests that are crucial for sustaining wildlife.
The Current Status of Bees in Canada
Now that we know how crucial the function of pollination is, you know the importance of bees in our environment.
However, while viewing the current statistics of bees in Canada, it is disheartening to know that the bee population here is currently on the decline. This is an environmental hazard and the survival of our biodiversity is at stake.
The number one reason behind this endangerment?
Rampant use of excess pesticides and insecticides that are fatal to the survival of bees once they suckle on the nectar, necessary for pollination. However, there are some selective pesticides and insecticides that you can use to keep your plants healthy, and at the same time ensure that the bees have a good time in your garden. We will cover this in more detail in a later section of this article.
Another reason why Ontario’s common bee species are on the verge of decline is because of rapid patterns of climate change. We can see with our own eyes the rapid decline in the environmental conditions on Earth, and it is time to face the facts. Bees too are affected by this. Let us tell you how.
The inherent climatic change patterns create a delay in the seasonal blooming of some flowers and fruits. Bees, whose vegetation is predominantly based on these flowers and fruits experience a delay in their habitat and thus, their systematic seasonal pollination drills get hindered, resulting in them adjusting to new areas. This not only affects the health of the bees, but poses a threat to the necessary process of pollination.
After viewing this current situation, it is crucial to undertake measures, as environment-friendly as possible to try and attract bees to your gardens or backyards, to renew the process of cross-pollination.
The urgency for taking up this initiative is because of the decline of the common bee as a species in Ontario, and in other parts of Canada.
Before we get into how you can construct your very own bee-friendly backyard/garden, let us talk a little bit about the kinds of flowers, fruits, and herbs that bees are attracted to. Yes, you can easily use these species in your gardens or backyards to attract bees, and make your garden a biodiversity spot in itself.
Top species of plants that attract bees
Fruits like blueberries and cherries are 90% dependent on bees for their cross-pollination. Without bees, these fruits will soon become extinct. Other than these, fruits like apples, melons, and cranberries are also a potent sources of vegetation for bees.
In addition to fruits, wildflowers too depend on and contribute to bee food. Wildflowers like Coneflowers, Giant Sunflowers, Milkweeds, Purple Prairie Clover, and New England Aster provide sweet nectar. Grasses like Little Bluestem and Prairie Dropseed also attract bees.
Herbs are also a good source of food for bees to feed on. Herbs like Basil, Dill, Lavender, Rosemary, Thyme, and Oregano are good for honey bees to feast on and cross-pollinate.
However, the shift in the process of agriculture and climatic change has affected the habitation and vegetation of honey bees and requires immediate attention and swift action.
In the next section, we are going to provide you with detailed information and procedure in regard to how you can create a bee-friendly garden for your personal use.
Tips to make your garden a pollination paradise:
- Bees love a messy garden: Maintaining a messy area in your garden may seem a little out of the ordinary, but it is proven to attract bees. Bees are a large family of several species.
Barring the ones we are familiar with, like honey bees and bumblebees, there are other species of bees like carpenter bees, sweat bees, mason bees, leafcutter bees, etc., that facilitate the process of pollination. Creating a space that is untidy in your garden will lure the bees towards the flowers and fruits. So, don’t be afraid to mess it up a little!
- Variety is key: Remember when we said that we will guide you to create a biodiversity garden?
The only way you can create this in your backyard is by planting a variety of species in one space to facilitate cross-pollination. The bees will take care of the pollination process. All you need to do is plant the right plants at the right places.
Begin by creating a healthy and fertile landscape and prep it up for the planting process. To create diversity, you need to plant at least 10 different species of plants that include wildflowers, herbs, grasses, and fruits.
- Planting Tips: A pro tip for planting variety in your garden is to have two types of trees of the same variety, and then add a mixture of wildflowers and herbs to it.
While planting a fruit plant, for example, cranberries (shrub plant), place a clump of these seeds in one garden with a distance of 3 feet in diameter between them. Some examples of fruit shrubs that you can plant in this fashion are blueberries, blackberries, peaches, raspberries, and strawberries.
It is a different case with herbs. When a bee feasts on herbs like lavender, thyme, oregano, etc., it fades away the necessary flavors which you would like to incorporate in your meals.
To avoid this dilemma, make sure you plant some extra herbs, maybe make two batches of the same herb. In this way, you can enjoy the flavours of oregano, and so can the bees.
- Bees need hydration too: This may seem a little odd at first but bees too drink water and need to hydrate themselves to give them the strength to undertake the cross-pollination process.
Place a birdbath on a rock on the grass of your bee-friendly garden. Place it on a rock because bees need a soft landing area for their soft feet. Keep a birdbath in your garden for a week, and notice your regular visitors enjoying the flowers and fruits that you have planted for them.
Now that you know how you can turn your backyard into a bee-friendly area, let us talk about how you can protect and maintain your flowers and fruits.
Insecticides and pesticides are ideally used to protect your flowers and fruits from insects. However, they may prove to be fatal to bee survival if used negligently.
The number one reason for the gradual decline in the bee population in Canada is the excessive use of pesticides on plants that end up killing bees.
Pesticides and Insecticides that don’t kill bees
Organocide Bee Safe 3-in-1 Garden Spray: Let us begin by saying that this garden spray has been the go-to product for 27 years in organic farming.
It is a combination of insecticide, miticide, a fungicide that has been proven to be effective against any kind of insect or fungal diseases, that your plant may catch hold of. It is effective enough to destroy all stages of an insect’s life and yet is not fatal to our plant-friendly bees.
By using this, you can rest assured that your plants are being protected, and the process is not affecting the cross-pollination function of bees.
Some bee-friendly pesticides are –
- Neem Oil
- Boric Acid
- Horticulture Vinegar
- Lime Sulfur
Use these for your plants to keep them away from insects and pests, and at the same time keep a bee-friendly environment.
Pro Tip: Consider crop rotation as a measure against insects and fungi. This means planting different species of plants at regular intervals of time by either switching their place or adding a new batch now and then.
Overall, the fact that bees are a crucial contributor to the diverse flora we are living amongst, is a good motivation for you to start your bee-friendly garden, lawn, or backyard. With the decline in wild species of bees in Canada, the biodiversity of this space is under great threat.
Now is the time to take matters into your own hands, and create a space of love and affection for your plants, environment, as well as bees that will contribute to the beauty of your future garden. The fruits that you will ultimately receive from this garden after the cross-pollination process will be extremely rewarding and sweet!
It is time for you to “BEE SUPPORTIVE!”
Do fruit trees provide nectar for bees?
Yes. Fruit trees like apples provide sweet nectar to bees in addition to pollen, which is a primary function that bees undertake. Bees pollinate in early summers and spring, and the sweet fruit that you eat is provided to you by late summers or fall when they are extremely ripe from continuous cross-pollination. Another trick to follow is to get fruit trees that are a rich source for cross-pollination. Normal pollinating trees won’t attract as many bees as the cross-pollination ones do.
Do non-bearing ornamental fruit trees produce pollen and nectar for bees?
Even though non-bearing ornamental fruit trees may seem like a good choice for your garden as a decorative plant, unfortunately they do not produce nectar for pollination. Hence, if you are looking to build a bee-friendly garden, non-bearing ornamental fruit trees might not be the best idea to execute.