If you’ve read the news in the last few years you’ve likely heard about the alarming decline of the bee population. In our daily lives, most of us think of bees only when they’re buzzing uncomfortably close to our picnic table. What we don’t often realize is the vital role that bees play in pollenating our food supply.
Large farms throughout the country (and throughout the world) hire beekeepers to bring in their colonies for pollination. Without those bees there would be a drastic drop in food production. While drops in bee populations are naturally occurring and fluctuate from year to year, recent years have seen some of the worst declines to date.
Starting to feel bad about swatting at the bees in your backyard?
First you should understand that these declines aren’t your fault because you’ve killed a few bees in your life. Among the stresses that the bee population faces are viruses, mites, climate change, and habitat reduction. It would take a massive culture shift to address all of those issues. But, there are a few things you can do right in your backyard that will lend a small hand in helping out your local bee population.
Know your bees (and what’s not a bee)
Many people treat bees, wasps and hornets as interchangeable. Bees are fuzzy pollinators that can sting only once. Common bees include honey bees, bumble bees, and carpenter bees.
Wasps are not fuzzy, and therefore not as effective as pollinators. They prey on insects and can be more aggressive than bees. The only wasps that sting are females, but they can sting multiple times.
Hornets are a sub-species of wasp native to North America. They too can sting multiple times and are known for being the most aggressive of the three. Again, they are not the most effective pollinators.
Bees, wasps, and your backyard
If you’ve noticed an uptick in the number of bees or wasps on you property it’s not necessarily a bad thing. If their numbers are low and you’re not concerned about anyone’s safety you may decide to leave them be. The bees and wasps will help you by pollinating your flowers, eating surplus insects, and leaving you well alone.
Some ways you can keep your backyard bees healthy include not using pesticides on your lawn or garden. You could also plant more flowers and let your wildflowers grow freely to provide an extra nectar source for the local bees.
Too much of a good thing
If the bees in your yard have grown high in number, are becoming aggressive, or you are worried for the safety of your family (bee sting allergies can be life-threatening) then it might be time to take action.
To avoid becoming part of the problem of declining populations, call in a professional. Some pest control companies still use killing the bees as a solution. But there are companies that are more proactive and attempt to coax away bees and relocate them. Seek out no-kill pest control companies for help.
Your local beekeeper is also an unexpendable resource when it comes to learning what to do about bees. Many beekeepers will even relocate the bees to commercial honey-making hives.
With a bit of research and careful behavior, cohabiting with bees can be beneficial for us and for the little bugs that make our honey.