Where Are The Bees? - myfoxcarolinas.com

Where Are The Bees?

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Many people are starting to plan their spring gardens. You may be tilling soil, preparing seeds and sketching out a design for rows and raised beds.

But there’s one key ingredient that can mean the success or failure of your garden: Honey bees.

Bees are like free gardeners who tend to your plants and make sure they survive. By pollinating the plants, bees are the best, most natural way to help your garden thrive.

But the bee population is in rapid decline, according to Dr. Greg Pillar, a professor of environmental sciences and chemistry at Queens University of Charlotte. He said there are several factors to the drop in numbers.

“Everything from pesticides to that’s been a big one,” he said. “Exposure to pesticides have led to bio accumulation within bee population and eventually has caused issues with their ability to repopulate and to live. There’s also issues with habitat destruction, that’s has caused some problems and issues with climate change.”

Dr. Pillar said climate change and the severe cold weather patterns can have a severe effect on the bee population, even if the event is a one-time occurrence.

"When we see extreme weather events, and again they may be short like the recent arctic vortex that we experienced, that can have a rippling effect ecologically,” he said. “Not just with bees with other insect species, plants and other animals."

But what would happen if the bees disappeared altogether? Dr. Pillar believes the effects could be life-altering for all species.

“If the bee population in the region were to completely collapse and we don’t have the pollination, that could decrease food production. And a decrease in food production could have a huge impact on everything from our economy to the ability of other species, not just people, for other animal’s and insects, to flourish," he said.

“Ecologically, it can have a catastrophic impact on everything from plants to other insects to other species that depend on bees.”

Libby Mack is a Beekeeper with the Mecklenburg Beekeepers Association and said she’s noticed a decline in bees over the years.

“The honey bee population is under severe stress,” she said. “Even backyard beekeepers are having a hard time keeping their bees alive. Honey bees are beset with diseases, pathogens, and parasites and it’s very hard to keep honey bees alive.”

Mack said there certain plants that bees feed on more than others, but property owners tend to pull them up—the dreaded weeds.

“Let the weeds grow in the lawn,” she said. "Henbit, dandelions and those little white flowers that grow in your lawn, those are really good bee food."

Mack also said to avoid pesticides as much as possible, and to try and stick to more natural ways of getting rid of pests.

“If you’re going to spray for mosquitos, try not to fog the whole yard,” she said. “Try and keep the pesticides off of the flowers themselves because that’s where the bees are going to go. If you have to apply pesticide to the leaves, do so carefully, and if you have to spray, maybe only do so around the base of the plants. If you have to put a pesticide in your yard, try and do in the evening after the bees have finished foraging for the day.”

BEST PRACTICES FOR AT-HOME GARDENERS TO ENCOURAGE BEES:

· DON’T pull all the weeds from your lawn, especially dandelions, henbit, oxalis and white clover as these are a valuable food source for bees

· DO be cautious when applying pesticides. Use sparingly and try to spray only at the base of the plants

· DON’T spray flowers with pesticides

· DO place a small tray of water for the bees. A bird bath with some pebbles is an easy, inexpensive way to hydrate the bees and keep them in your yard

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