How to help pollinators at home
You might have heard the news that bees aren’t doing so hot right now. Half of all North American bee species, half meaning about 2,000 species, are in decline, and about 1,000 bee species are approaching extinction. In other words, we need to start paying more attention to bees.
By doing what they do best, bees and other pollinators play an active role in the success of products like almonds, avocados, berries, lettuce, cherries, oranges, pumpkins, coffee and much, much more. About one in three bites of food you take can be attributed to bees and other pollinators. And you can thank bees for about one in one bites of food if you only survive off avocado toast and pumpkin spiced lattes.
So, how can we start thanking pollinators? Well, be like Mr. Rogers – invite them to be your neighbor by creating a pollinator friendly habitat around your home.
Neighborly step 1 – Stop spraying pesticides everywhere. If you weren’t doing this, great! But if you were, just know pesticides might kill mosquitos, but it also kills everything else from bees to butterflies to frogs. Instead, switch to repellents like citronella candles. Don’t be that neighbor that kills everything.
Neighborly step 2 – Plant native flowering plants to help native pollinators, but do your research! Some stores treat plants and seeds with systemic pesticides (look for the incredibly hard to pronounce word – “neonicotinoids”), which can remain in a plant’s nectar and pollen and harm pollinators for years. Make sure your plants and seeds are pesticide free.
Neighborly step 3 – Have some bare dirt for nesting sites. We usually think of bee hives up in trees, but 70 percent of bee species actually nest in the ground. The bees will enjoy their dirt best if it drains well (drowning is frowned upon) and gets plenty of sunshine. Some bees also enjoy leaf litter and nesting in wood, so keep some natural variety around your home too.
Neighborly step 4 – Share all this with your other human neighbors! By creating a pollinator-friendly greenspace in your neighborhood, you’ll see your gardens thrive and you’ll be playing an active part in helping species avoid extinction.
Keep doing research to learn more about bees and other pollinators around your home. One great source of information is Bee City USA and if you need help identifying a certain species of bee or other pollinator or would like to record your new neighbors, check out iNaturalist.