Wildflower is published quarterly by the Wildflower Center. Its content is national in scope with articles about the conservation and use of native plants as well as news from the Wildflower Center. A subscription is provided to Wildflower Center members as a benefit of membership.
Every time I look at the bottom of my foot, a small, dimpled scar reminds me of bees. I was 6 when with all the amazing energy of a young child I danced around our family’s grassy Midwestern backyard until – ouch! My foot landed smack down in the middle of a white clover blossom, interrupting the bee that was busy pollinating it.
And although my fears of getting stung again lingered throughout my childhood, as an adult I learned that most bees don’t sting and to value the bees in my yard and those that help bring the food to our tables across America. (It’s estimated that one out of every three bites of food comes to us through the work of animal pollinators.)
More often than ever, it seems, bees are making the news. For instance, in April, Reuters reported that Europe’s beekeeping industry could be wiped out in less than a decade as bees fall victim to disease, insecticides and intensive farming. The report indicated that about 35 percent of European food crops rely on bees to pollinate them, and last year about 30 percent of Europe’s 13.6 million hives died.
Here in the United States, Colony Collapse Disorder continues to claim non-native honeybees (Apis mellifera), North America’s most important managed pollinator.
Although U.S. agroforestry now relies upon these European honeybees, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture research shows that native bees can be important pollinators in agricultural fields as long as enough habitat is available.
There are said to be 4,000 species of bees native to North America; in California there are 1,500 different species alone. According to the Pollinator Partnership and its North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, urban areas can provide important habitat for many bee species, and gardeners can help save species that are in decline due to threatened habitat.
Here are some things you can do for bees and other pollinators:
— Christina Kosta Procopiou, Editor