Bee populations continue to be threatened, as more humans take over natural habitats. In fact, honeybee populations have been declining around 30% each year. Creating a “bee lawn”—one that’s good for pollinators—can help bees and other pollinators survive.
This post is one in a series of three articles on bee-friendly lawns that we plan to share with you, and we hope you will pass on to others. In our first article, we’ll answer these important questions to help introduce the discussion:
- Why do we care about protecting pollinators?
- What types of bees are we saving?
- What is happening to bee habitats?
Why Do We Care About Protecting Pollinators?
It’s not uncommon for most people to be afraid of bees. After all, they can sting you and some people are allergic to them. So: why should we save the bees?
Without bees and other pollinators, we would lose fruit, have fewer vegetables and even lesser plants. Gardeners and farmers alike need pollinators to travel between plants to pollinate them, so they can reproduce and grow fruit. Plus, native habitats need pollinators for shrubs and brush that animals forage in. Simply put, bees are part of our ecosystem and an important indirect part of our food supply.
Even more simply stated: bees are wildlife, just like birds and other animals, and they deserve protection.
What Types of Bees Are We Saving?
Minnesota is home to over 450 native bee species (3,600 in the US), as well as other pollinators like butterflies, moths, beetles, and flies. Even small plantings in your garden can help support populations of all these pollinators.
Minnesota’s state bee, the Rusty Patched Bumblebee, is on the world’s endangered list and is the focus of Lawns to Legumes, a program that supports homeowners creating bee-friendly lawns. However, honeybees are the most important bee for crops because they can be moved into and out of orchards easily, and they’ve been estimated to pollinate 30% to 90% of some crops, with native species doing the rest.
What Is Happening to Bee Habitats?
The biggest factor threatening bees is a loss of natural bee habitats, or more specifically, loss of flowers. Nectar and pollen from flowers provide needed carbohydrates and protein. Not getting these nutrients can weaken bees who are unable to withstand exposure to other threats like disease, other pests (like mites), and pesticides.
Bees are exposed to pesticides when residue sticks to the petals or when chemicals are put into the soil and end up in the nectar and pollen. Some can be relatively safe; others can impair the bee to the point that they can’t find their hive or provide food. Others can outright kill them. And because bees fly from landscape to landscape (sometimes up to a mile), they may be exposed to multiple chemicals, putting them at even greater risk.
What Can We Do?
A perfectly manicured lawn may look lovely, but it creates a food desert for bees. Luckily, there are ways to compromise, so you can still have a beautiful yard that’s good for bees, too. We’ll cover that in our second article coming soon!
If you’re ready to save the bees and create a bee-friendly lawn, Organic Lawns by Lunseth can help. Contact us to learn more! Remember, it’s important that we all do our part. Our future depends on it!