July 13, 2011

Bringing Back the Bees

Did you know that one third of the food we eat is made possible by the pollination of bees? Bees were introduced into the U.S. from Europe in the 17th Century, they pollinate about 130 crops and they provide over $15 billion in added value to American agriculture each year. Though bees have been on the decline for several years due to among other things viruses and pesticides there are many things we can do right in our own backyard to encourage the growth of the bee population. In the last couple of years we have seen a huge effort for the natural population of bees from urban bee keeping. Even The Boy Scouts of America, Christopher Stowell in Skiatook, OK has a petition to bring back the Merit Badge for beekeeping which was discontinued in 1995. Hopefully this will help to encourage more young people to become beekeepers. I signed and was the 5919 signature. I met this couple in Dallas last fall at a local market, they encourage local beekeeping and sell local honey by zip code. Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park has an event in September promoting beekeeping, backyard chicken coops, rain barrels and other ways to live a little easier on the planet.

Creating an environment that provides shelter and food for pollinators is one of the most rewarding of garden activities. You can do it anywhere – city rooftops, school gardens, a sidewalk strip or your own back yard. For very little effort, you can create beautiful and critical habitat for native bees and abundant forage for honey bees.

Here are a couple of links with more information on the bees. The Great Sunflower Project might be a great way to get your children involved by planting Sunflowers and tracking the bees. In 2008, they started this project as a way to gather information about our urban, suburban and rural bee populations. By enlisting people all over the world to observe their bees on Lemon Queen sunflowers. Sunflowers are relatively easy to grow and a great resource for bees. Since 2008, they have expanded the list of plants studied to include Bee balm, Cosmos, Rosemary, Tickseed, and Purple Coneflower. You can follow along next week with results and prepare to get involved next year.
The Great Sunflower Project

You can find more ramblings from Mindi at Red Dog Barkery.

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