On this Earth Day number 46, I thought it fitting to honor the one species that may provide the most benefit to human and natural systems alike.  You won’t see this creature on t-shirts, posters, nor as the mascot for sports teams (though I do believe there is a Yellow Jackets college team), yet honeybees are simply critical to the world’s food supply as well as this year’s most phenomenal flower show in the Columbia River Gorge. Almost everything we eat comes about through cross-pollination, and honeybees provide 15 billion dollars in free ecological services pollinating 1,000 familiar foods including peaches, melons, blueberries, apples, almonds, and vanilla,.

Ninety percent of all flowering plants rely on animals, rather than the wind, for pollination. And to make sure we are not excluding other Friends of Flowers, we are told 200,000 animal pollinators exist from ants, beetles, wasps, opposums, bats, butterflies, moths, and birds such as hummingbirds.

During the honey production season, worker bees only have 1 extremely active month foraging for food, storing nectar, feeding larvae and producing honey. During that time, 1 bee can visit 90,000 flowers.  Bees can fly at about 7 miles per hour and have to beat their wings 190 times per second to accomplish flight! Some kinds of bees, but not honey bees, pollinate flowers by their buzzing (vibrations), knocking the pollen loose from the anthers and onto the stigma. This is called “buzz pollination.”
Helping Our Bees

Thirty-one percent of all honebee colonies declined in 2012-2013, while many species of pollinators have decreased in numbers because of loss of habitat, misuse of pesticides,introduced and invasive plants and animals, diseases and parasites. The U.S.has lost more than 50% of its managed honey colonies in the past decade.

Think about creating a self-sustaining bee-centered ecosystem that can benefit pollinators by planting a variety of native-flowering trees, shrubs and wildflowers throughout your site.  Use plants that are indigenous to the area and strive for a diversity of plants with a focus on consecutive bloom times to provide forage for pollinators throught the growing season.  Plant clumps of the same species together rather than spreading them evenly throughout your property as clumped plantings allow for more efficient foragine by pollinators.  Diversity is key, aim for 2 or 3 different species that bloom at the same time, and aim to have nectar and pollen available from spring through the autumn season.