Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Buzz about Bees

Post contributed by Mary, Conservation Corps Youth Outdoors Co-leader:

This week, the youth working for Conservation Corps Youth Outdoors program are planning their end of term youth lead service project, which will take place the last Saturday in May. One crew has decided to plant a bee garden at Stryker Garden in West St. Paul. Both colonized and native bees all over America are in decline for reasons that are not entirely clear and the youth are doing their part to help the struggling bees by providing them with pollen producing native wildflowers.
Honey bees, which were brought over to the US from Europe in the 1600s, have been suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder which is thought to be caused by a multitude of factors such as disease, parasites, pesticides, decrease in habitat and foraging areas, higher work load, and stress. These are the bees that produce our honey and pollinate about a third of the plants we eat, but there are also nearly 4,000 species of native, North American bees whose populations are also decreasing. Native bees have been especially affected by a loss of habitat and a decrease in available food sources. Huge monoculture farms will produce ample food for a few weeks, but without plants blooming the whole season the bees will starve. By planting a watermelon patch alongside wildflowers, the Phalen Youth Outdoors crew aims to provide nectar and pollen that will feed bees all season long.

Wildflowers are already starting to pop up all over Saint Paul Parks as the bees emerge from their winter homes. The parks provide a great habitat for bees but everyone can help our native bees by planting flowers at home as well. Planting a bee garden is simple and can make a huge difference for the bees. Even a small plot of land increases their habitat and promotes a healthier ecosystem. It is important to plant a variety of flowers that will bloom at different times during the growing season. Bees also prefer single head flowers, as those are easier to access the nectar and pollen.

To learn more about bees, check out these sources: