The bee has long been a friend to the vegetable gardener because of its pollinating abilities. The last several years have seen dramatic declines in bee populations – dropping almost 30% from September 2008 to April 2009 in the U.S. alone. This rapid decline in bee population was first noticed around 2006, when it began to be referred to as Bee Colony Collapse Disorder (BCCD). Bee populations continue to decline still today.
Although no one fully understands the causes of this disorder, there are many theories as to why this is happening. Some believe the drop in bee population is attributed to global warming, widespread use of pesticides, and continual urbanization by man. The most widely agreed upon theory has been insect disease, or pathogens, that are killing off the bees. There are other scientists that believe it could be a combination of factors, and that no single factor is the cause.
The Importance Of Bees In The Vegetable Garden
Bees, and other pollinators, are the lifeblood of the vegetable garden. Bees are one of the hardest working pollinators in nature – a single bee can virtually pollinate a small garden in one visit. Without bees, pollination rates will drop significantly, resulting in fewer vegetables from the garden. The vegetable gardener will then need to perform hand pollination, which can work, but does not have as high a success rate as natural pollination.
Not only are bees important to vegetable gardeners, but they are important for sustaining crop supplies. Without these pollinators, growing crops for human consumption, feed for livestock, and the entire agricultural cycle would be affected by their disappearance.
How Vegetable Gardeners Can Help Support Bees
Although there is not much the average vegetable gardener can do against an insect disease, or the urbanization of man, there are some steps that gardeners can take to help support bee populations. Every little bit helps to save our best garden pollinator.
- Do not use chemical pesticides – Try to use more targeted, organic solutions to particular pests in the vegetable garden and around the home. If you use chemical, broad spectrum pesticides then remember it will kill bees as well. Try to find ways to deter pests instead of something to kill them.
- Plant flowers that attract bees – A bee’s vision is in ultra-violet colors, so plant flowers that are yellow, blue, or red. Plants that are great for attracting bees are anise hyssop, bee balm, or asters. Plant the flowers in clumps to make it easier for the bees to recognize, and make sure they are in a sunny spot.
- Provide bees a habitat – A stable and secure habitat is crucial for bees to live. You can support wood-nesting bees by purchasing an inexpensive Bee House.
Remember, bees are your biggest natural ally in the vegetable garden. Let’s try to encourage their livelihood!