Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Buzz on Bees

Photo Credit MSargent
The Bumble Bee

Bees are a necessity in order to pollinate various flowers and most importantly they are needed to pollinate crops such as our vegetables and fruits. Without bees to pollinate there would be no crops or flowers. Can you imagine that?

Above is a photograph I took of a bumble bee that was hanging around my container garden. Unfortunately, this bumble bee had a broken wing so it was no longer able to fly. I placed him on the ground and as I watched, the robins that were eating ants around my containers ended up eating my bumble bee. Don't be upset because the baby robins are hatching like crazy and more than likely this bumble bee ended up as food for one of the baby robins.

Bumble Bee Facts

The most important thing about bumble bees is that they pollinate more crops and flowers than honey bees do. They are indigenous to the United States, meaning they were already here, whereas honey bees were imported to the United States during the 1600's. 

Bumble Bees live in colonies under the ground in holes left by various ground dwelling rodents like moles, ground squirrels and even badger holes. Their colonies can have up to 100 bees and even though they may produce some honey the king of honey producers is of course the honey bee.

In the Fall, the bumble bee workers (the pollinators) will die off leaving only the Queen Bumble Bee to hibernate all winter long. Just before Spring when the ground starts to warm up the Queen will start laying her eggs and a new colony will be born.

The Bumble Bees wings can beat at 130 and even more per second. This allows their unique quality of pollinating crops through not just flitting from flower to flower and collecting pollen on their legs they also pollinate by the fast vibration of their wing speeds allowing the pollen to float in the air and land on another flowering vegetable or fruit.

Bumble Bees like the cooler part of the day and this is why they see mostly in the morning and afternoon hours. During the hotter part of the day the bumble bee will be inside of their underground colony making their hives and impregnating the queen.

There are 46 different species of bumble bees in the United States and there are over 250 different species spread around the world. Unfortunately, the bumble bee population has dropped by almost 50% in the United States and the Rusty Patch bumble bee has actually been put on the endangered species list. 

This is not a good thing since we need the bumble bee to be the primary pollinator of our crops. Believe it or not, the bumble bee is the primary pollinator of tomatoes and due to the decline of the bumble bee they have to be commercially raised and then are freed inside the large tomato greenhouses in order for pollination to take place. The commercial bumble bee trade is becoming big business making several million dollars each year. Yet, the bumble bees are still dying.

Why Bumble Bees are Dying

Our major pollinators of our fruit and vegetables, the bumble bees are dying at a rapid rate. Some of the reasons are due to higher populations of people therefore there are less places for the bumble bee to make their colonies.

They are dying from auto-immune diseases due to the GMO (genetically modified organism) plants such as corn and soybeans. The pesticides in these GMO food sources are, of course, ingested by the honey bee which is changing the chemical makeup of their bodies. Therefore, with an auto-immune disease they are simply dying off.

How You can help the Bumble Bee

With the rapidly decline in our bumble bee population and species there will be no major pollinator of our food sources. However, you can help the bumble bee in several ways to thrive in your area.

Since bumble bees like the cooler temperatures of Spring, plant spring flowering shrubs, trees and native flowers that are your area. You will be helping the bumble bee thrive and you will also be saving native flowering plants. When you do plant your flowers read the label as there are many flower seeds that will state "kills bees" on the package.

Plant a vegetable and/or fruit garden. Purchase organic seeds or heirloom seeds (higher priced and hard to find) that are not GMO modified. The bumble bee will not only love you for the chance to pollinate your garden, your garden will love the bumble bee right back by producing more fruits and vegetables.

Never use a pesticide on your garden. There are natural ways to rid your garden of pests that like to eat the leaves of your plants.

Provide the bumble bee with a home. You can bury an old tea pot, coffee pot or even a clay pot with the hole or spout above the ground. The bees will love to take up residence there. Start a pile of sticks in the corner of your yard. Remember bumble bees like cooler temperatures.

Why save Bumble Bees

If we as a group of people do not help our number one pollinator for our food sources within 100 years there may not be any more bumbles left in the United States. This means food sources will have to be pollinated by artificial means and this means by hand. I don't know about you but hand pollinating hundreds of thousands of acres of crops is not an option.

(c) 2017 MSargent All Rights Reserved

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