What’s the Buzz on Bees

SUMMER and the living is easy and hot! But unfortunately not so easy for the important honeybee. It’s a well-known fact that the number of native pollinators, including honeybees have been declining. {{more}}

Wildlife depends upon having a natural habitat in which to live. In recent years, disease, loss of its natural environment and inappropriate use of pesticides have caused a severe drop in the number of pollinators. Why should we care? Well the simple answer is – our survival and wildlife depend on it. We are all interconnected. Paul Growald, co-founder, Pollinator Partnership wrote, ”Farming feeds the world, and we must remember that pollinators are a critical link in our food systems.” According to the Connecticut Beekeepers Association the loss of healthy honeybee colonies could result in diminished crops including apples, blueberries, cherries, peppers, onions and cucumbers to name a few. “While honeybees can survive in the wild most are dependent on the local beekeeper who can ensure their survival with careful management of their colonies.”

So what can we do? As Orange residents most of us have yards and property that already serve as natural habitats. But with a little effort, we can provide and improve that environment to encourage pollinators. Planting a variety of native plants and flowers will enable bees to have access to season-long pollen and nectar. Choose several colors of flowers – blue, purple, violet and white are particularly attractive to bees. Flowers planted in clumps of one species will attract more pollinators than individual plants scattered throughout a garden. Lupines, clovers, bee balm, mints, asters, blueberries and rhododendron are some good examples of native plants and flowers that attract bees, but there are many more. The website, www.xerces.org. provides pollinator information and more detailed guidelines on how to enhance habitats for pollinators. In addition, as mentioned earlier, we need to decrease the use of insecticides and use herbicides judiciously to protect flowering plants.

And finally a few interesting facts about the honeybee:

*A honeybee visits two million flowers to make a single pound of honey.

* Honeybees pollinate approximately $15 billion worth of crops in the United States each year. The value of pollination services provided by native bees and other wildlife is even greater.

*The honeybee is the only insect to produce food that is consumed by people.

*Honey never goes bad

Members of garden clubs throughout the state of Connecticut are committed to planting native and creating backyard habitats. This is a goal we as members of the Orange community can also aspire to.

Marion Rizzo is past president of The Garden Club of Orange.