In 1989, September was dedicated as Honeybee Month to promote beekeeping and honey as a natural sweetener. As bees become more threatened we should remind ourselves of the important role that honeybees and other pollinators play in the environment and what we can do to conserve and protect them.
Protection and conservation of honeybees and other pollinators is important because they play a vital role in our ecosystem. One in every three crops rely on pollination. Fruits (including vegetables such as squash, cucumber, tomato and eggplant), nuts, seeds, fiber (such as cotton), and hay (alfalfa grown to feed livestock), require pollination by insects. Losing pollinator bees would result in the loss of a third of our food supply which would further diminish our already depleting food supply as our population grows exponentially.
Things you can do to help our honeybees and other pollinators:
Plant pollinator-friendly native plants around your house and/or in your garden. This will provide nutrient rich nectar to fuel healthy pollinator populations. Cluster these plants closely together to provide protection from predators and shelter for pollinators.
Leave standing dead trees, fallen branches, and patches of sandy soil for solitary native bees.
Avoid spraying pesticides. If you must use pesticides, use garlic, soap, or chili pepper and spray at night. Use products that target specific pests rather than broad-spectrum ones. Avoid anything labeled as toxic to bees or that kills the “weedy” flowers pollinators visit. Specifically avoid garden products that include neonicotinoids. If you must use a spray, make sure you follow the directions on the container and use sparingly.
Fill a bird bath or a muddy hole for pollinator to drink.
Donate or sell land to land trusts like Friends of the Lower Muskingum River (FLMR) who establish diverse native plant pollinator habitats which provide pollinators with the nutritious nectar they need to grow healthy thriving colonies.
This summer the Luke Chute Conservation Pollinator Habitat was alive with pollinator activity including honeybees. Hundreds of pollinators could be heard and seen gathering nectar from beautiful native wildflowers: Spider Wart, Bee Bomb, Purple Cone Flower, Wing Stem, Partridge Pea, Red Clover, White Clover, Brown-eyed Susan, and Black-eyed Susan. This native flowering plant diversity promotes a more nutritional diet for pollinators and combats monoculture, while also being very pleasing to the eye.
In 2017, FLMR worked with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Partners, Pheasants Forever, and Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative to create an 8.5 acre pollinator habitat on the Luke Chute Conservation Area, a 31 acre property owned by FLMR. FLMR, FLMR partners, and our volunteers spent many hours over several months getting the fields ready for planting. This property was designed to mitigate pollinator habitat loss which is one of the factors causing bee mortality. Other factors include parasites, pathogens, pesticides, and poor nutrition .
This project provides much-needed habitat for honey bees and native pollinators which are so important for our ecosystem and our food system. It is also a great place for visitors and school groups to learn about pollinators.