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Walnut Creek Magazine

BUZZ ABOUT HONEY BEES

Jun 22, 2020 04:51PM ● By Patrice Hanlon

It’s said we should thank the hardworking honeybee for every third bite of food off of our plates. These vital little creatures discretely perform the job of pollinating our fruits, flowers, and vegetables and play a critical role in our ecosystem. A single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day. Amazingly, 71 of the 100 crops that make up 90 percent of the world’s food supply are pollinated by honey bees including apples, blueberries, strawberries, carrots, and broccoli, as well as almonds and coffee. This equates to $15 billion in agricultural production in the U.S each year.

Given the staggering decline of honeybee populations over the past 25 years, primarily due to pesticides (neonicotinoids)—posing a serious threat to our food supply—efforts are underway to boost conservation. “We want people to understand how important bees are to our environment and our food source,” says beekeeper Mike Stephanos. “They’re the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for our food supply.” In fact, about one-third of our vegetable, fruit, and nut crops depend on the pollinating services of bees. An avid backyard beekeeper and honey purveyor for the last 20 years, Stephanos spends his free time educating the community on the benefits of the honeybee for the Mt. Diablo Beekeepers Association.

Stephanos says the Golden State has a special responsibility to respond to the threat since our state's agricultural production accounts for more food than any other state in the nation – and that means our local economies depend on the health of honeybees. You can help by planting a variety of native flowers in your garden that will provide pollen resources to attract butterflies, bees, and birds.

Bees How to attract them

Go wild. Dedicate a portion of your yard to grow without mowing. Pollinators love flowering weeds and grasses.

Grow native plants. A patch of wildflowers or a bunch of milkweed (especially great for our monarch butterflies) add color and interest to your yard. Honeybees thrive on everything from eucalyptus and rosemary to wild mustard seed, thyme, and poppies. They especially like mounds of sweet purple, white, and yellow flowers such as lavender, basil, and sunflowers. Letting your broccoli, kale, or Swiss chard plants flower is another good way to nourish honeybees.

Create a pollinator “pond.” Bees can’t swim or get their wings wet, but they need water. Keep them cool by filling a shallow pie pan with flat marbles or little stones and water, so bees have somewhere to land and rehydrate.

Avoid artificial pesticides and chemical sprays. Focus instead on natural methods for keeping invasive critters off your prized tomatoes and help bees thrive.

Ease the stigma around the stinger. Bees very rarely sting. If you stay calm and don’t swat, they will usually buzz along pretty quickly.

Journey into the incredible world of honeybees with games, facts, and activities for kids ages 5-11 from the Whole Foods Foundation. Learn more about how you can help support local pollinators, at diablobees.org.

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