The IMPORTANCE of BEES!

The Importance of Bees and How Everyone Can Do Their Part to Save Them

Written by: Christy Erickson

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Vegetables, fruit, nuts, oils, cotton, coffee, tea, chocolate, and livestock feed are all vital crops that humans use and rely on every day. Around 84 percent of these crops need bees to pollinate them, which equates to a global worth of $170 billion every year. But bees are worth more than just their monetary value. Many other animals rely on plants that are pollinated by bees, making bees an integral a part of a healthy ecosystem. However, their populations are rapidly declining, and their extinction would be detrimental to the Earth. Although people are a big part of the decline in the population of bees, we can help reverse the damage and save the bees.

Declining Bee Populations

Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is the culprit in the disappearance of honeybees. In the United States, CCD first emerged in 2007 and wiped out a third of honeybee colonies. Each year since then, the U.S. has suffered a loss of 40 percent. Although the cause of CCD is not fully understood, scientists believe it’s a combination of parasites, viruses, poor nutrition, and pesticide usage.

Solitary bee populations are dwindling as a result of intensive farming, insecticide use, and climate change. The habitats of wild bees are also disappearing due to modern farming practices and urbanization. Urbanization replaces fields of flowers and plants with concrete parking lots and skyscrapers. The bees need the flowers for food, and the flowers need the bee to reproduce. The destruction or loss of either disrupts their relationship.

Modern farming is a three-fold issue. The first issue affects honeybees, which are raised in one state and then transported around the country to pollinate crops. The transportation has been found to damage the development of the bees, affecting their ability to feed members of the colony. Also, the stress of transportation makes bees more susceptible to fungal infections, and the concentrated bee populations on a bee farm enables the infections to spread rapidly.

The second and third issues harm native bees and honeybees alike. Modern farming features monocultures, which means acres and acres of land are dedicated to one crop, so not only are honeybees getting poor nutrition, but the native bees are losing their food as well. Bees need to eat throughout the year, but monoculture crops bloom all at once, and when blooming is done, native bees are left with no food. Additionally, modern farming uses insecticides, pesticides, and fungicides, which are harmful to bees.

Helping in Your Garden

If you want to help bees, start by buying local produce, which bypasses the bee industry altogether. Planting a garden that attracts and protects bees is also helpful. If you’re lacking in space, plant in containers and choose the largest ones you can fit in your space. In each container, add a few different types of plants of varying colors, textures, and heights. Plant densely in your containers, and add climbing vines that produce pollen and nectar to vertical areas, such as a wall or trellis.

Keep in mind that bees need nectar and pollen, so choose plants that offer both or plant a good mix of plants that offer each. Some plants that bees love include catmint, bee balm, lavender, crocus, and anise hyssop. Remember that bees visit the same type of plant when they’re eating and they don’t want to travel far, so place similar plants in clusters rather than spreading them out. Also, choose native plants and add annuals and herbs. Don’t forget to include a place to raise their young and a source of water for bees to drink.

Gardening has benefits for bees and your family. When you garden with kids, children learn about plants and the environment. Think of it as a daily science lesson and experiment. They also learn to care for something, which teaches responsibility and helps them feel proud when they see their hard work come to life.

We need bees in order to survive because they pollinate so many of our essential crops. Because we have destroyed their habitats and negatively affected their health, bees now need us to survive too. Bees are “guardians of the food chain and the biodiversity of our species,” which is why it’s so concerning that their populations are dropping rapidly and why stepping in to help them is so vital.

 

How to BEE friendly this fall!

Fall Gardening Tips:

Keeping Your Garden Thriving and Bee Friendly

Written by: Christy Erickson

In the fall, old bumblebee colonies die and new queens find places to hibernate, such as a hole in the ground, a compost heap, or under piles of fallen leaves. Meanwhile, late-flying species, like the common carder bumblebee and the solitary ivy bee, may visit your garden’s flowers, and honeybees will pop out to feed on warm, sunny days. If you want to keep your garden a haven for bees, there are some steps you can take this fall to equip your garden for the particular needs of different species and to prepare your garden for the spring. 

 Providing Shelter, Nesting, and Food

Building a log pile or stumpery provides shelter for foraging bees and provides a nesting site for solitary bees and bumblebees. After you assemble the log pile, loosely fill empty spaces with twigs, moss, and leaves, but leave open spaces for nesting places. In your yard, leave a patch of grass to grow long near the garden, as some species prefer the ground for nesting. Bumblebees in particular like using old mouse holes, bird boxes, or thickets of grass to nest in.

While bees need pollen and nectar year-round, they especially need them in fall, as they store up to survive winter hibernation. Be sure to grow a hearty selection of late-flowering nectar plants, including asters, colchicum, Japanese anemones, salvias, lemon balm, basil, borage, and sedum. Plants that are excellent sources of both pollen and nectar include Calendula, Japanese Anemone, Nise hyssop, and clovers.

 Keeping Your Garden a Beautiful Food Source

Be sure to include plants that make your garden visually appealing in every season, such as hydrangeas, pagoda dogwoods, and Ninebarks. However, be careful about which hydrangeas you select, as some produce sterile flowers, and thus don’t feed the bees. The best hydrangeas for bees are lacetop, oak-leaved, and rough-leaf. Pagoda dogwoods have clusters of white flowers in the spring and burgundy-red foliage and blue-black berries in the fall. In the winter, their unique horizontal branching pattern catches snow, showcasing the winter wonderland.

Ninebark is a valuable nectar source for many pollinators, including native bees. Toward the end of spring, white flowers bloom, which give way to fruits of a dark glossy-red color. As winter begins, the fruits fade to a rosy tan. Once the fruit is gone, you’re left with the plant’s distinctive bark. As the plant ages, the bark exfoliates loosely and shreds in narrow strips, leaving layers of different colors exposed. Winter gives you a chance to really appreciate and admire the plant’s unique bark.

Planting New Plants in the Fall

The best time to plant spring-flowering bulbs is in the fall. This timing is best because the bulbs have ample time to grow roots during winter and come up early in the spring, and it also ensures your garden features a good supply of pollen and nectar for queen bumblebees emerging from hibernation. Crocus, snake’s head fritillary, alliums, and grape hyacinth are great sources of food for bees in the spring. Be sure to purchase bulbs from a reputable source. “Remember, second-rate bulbs produce second-rate flowers or don’t sprout at all,” says The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Plant the bulbs after the heat of summer has passed but before the ground freezes. Check when the first fall frost will be in your area by using The Old Farmer’s Almanac’s frost date calculator. Plant the bulbs abundantly soon after purchasing them by selecting a site with plenty of sun and well-drained soil at a depth of three times the width of the bulb. Before planting, work a few inches of compost into the soil. Placement and spacing should be random for a more natural appearance. After planting, add low-nitrogen fertilizer, generously water them, and apply mulch. Don’t forget to add protection from rodents.

Although spring and summer have passed, that doesn’t mean fall brings an end to gardening. Now is a great time to add shelter and nesting sites for bees in your garden and yard. You can also plant your spring-blooming bulbs and add some plants – such as hydrangeas, pagoda dogwoods, and Ninebarks – that provide food for bees and are visually appealing throughout the seasons. Once you get your garden squared away, spruce up your front porch with some fun fall decorating ideas to welcome autumn. Soon enough, you’re neighbors will be asking you for fall gardening tips. 

SNAP MATCH is BACK!

We are over the moon...

SNAP MATCH is BACK!

Due to many caring people in our community who donated to our GoFundMe campaign, in addition to one extremely generous sizable contribution from 2 local anonymous private donors,  we are thrilled to announce that the Brookline Farmers' Market will be resuming its SNAP MATCH program immediately, and to last through the end of the 2017 season.  Please come to tomorrow's market where you can now use your HIP benefits directly at 5 of our fruit and vegetable farms as well as make use of our (10 dollar limit per market) SNAP MATCH program which doubles your dollars in ALL food sold by ALL food vendors at the market using our token system available at the Info Tent.  The Brookline Farmer's Market is so very grateful to all of our wonderful community members who rapidly and generously stepped-up to close our funding gap allowing us to continue out matching program. 

Many thanks and lots of love,

The BFM