Vanishing bees a threat to myriad food sources

Losing honeybees means more than just a world without honey. These insects play a major role in producing all kinds of foods, including berries, fruit, almonds, melons, squash and cucumbers.

Losing honeybees means more than just a world without honey. These insects play a major role in producing all kinds of foods, including berries, fruit, almonds, melons, squash and cucumbers.

We are at the height of the bloom for Mesquite trees and many native plants in Sedona and the Verde Valley. In spite of unprecedented drought this past winter, many native plants and cacti are flowering. What has not occurred, compared to the same time last year, is that our Mesquite trees in particular, are not buzzing with quantities of bees.

A few months ago when Rosemary was filled with blue blossoms, and fruit trees were covered in pink and white, there were many bees visibly at work.

From February through the summer our area has a great diversity of plants producing nectar and pollen.

Nevertheless, suddenly many are noticing that the bees are no longer visiting gardens, flowering trees, and shrubs, in large numbers.

There can be many factors for the sudden collapse of bee colonies, including diseases and parasites, increasing temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns and more erratic or extreme weather events.

However, one of the most direct threats to bees and other pollinators is insecticides. Insecticides in particular pose the most direct risk to pollinators. As their name indicates, these are chemicals designed to kill insects, and they are widely applied in the environment.

While industrial agriculture is the main culprit, the home gardener has to be aware of the negative impact on bees, of even some well-intentioned practices. Gardeners wishing to create a bee friendly habitat, or even a pollinator garden, may visit a garden center to stock up on flowers.

However, many, if not most, commercial plants are treated with insecticides in their production. Arizona even requires that many plants from commercial growers from other states, be treated with insecticides upon entering our state.

Some insecticides, known as neonicotinoids, are systemic, meaning they enter the plant’s vascular system. These insecticides eventually end up on the pollen and nectar.

The application of neonicotinoids is standard practice for many commercial growers, and these plants end up in our gardens.

Home gardeners need to be aware of the plants they are planting so that a beautiful flower is not a cup of poison to our pollinators. Bee collected pollen can contain high concentrations of pesticide residues.

Planting flowers from seed is the SUREST WAY of guaranteeing that our flowers will be poison free. We also have to create the right conditions for pollinators to thrive. Besides nectar and pollen, bees need a source of water, and a diversity of plants that bloom at different times.

Losing honeybees means more than just a world without honey. These insects play a major role in producing all kinds of foods, including berries, fruit, almonds, melons, squash and cucumbers.

That’s because honeybees move pollen between flowers fertilizing plants. Without this pollination, many plants won’t produce fruit, and we may see less fruit setting in our gardens.

Gardens for Humanity works with schools and our community, in garden and environmental education, and helps create beautiful habitats through home, community, and school gardens.

To learn more about our programs visit www.gardensforhumanity.org .

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