Happy August! In these hot days lingering toward the end of summer, California is once again in the grips of ever-worsening wildfires. Fire season now spans half the year, due to climate change causing hotter, drier conditions.
These conditions also contribute to growing instability in more humble areas: native and non-native bees, imperiled not only from drought and climate change; but also dangerous pests like varroa mites, disease, herbicides/pesticides and other poisons, lack of biodiversity and forage due to monoculture, and habitat loss from human development.
Earlier I’d posted about how integral bees’ health is to human life and systems, as well as on their fascinating behavior, such as the waggle dance they perform to alert each other to pollen sources. Amazingly, California has over 1600 species of native bees. 1600! B and I have focused any garden plantings (which we decreased due to ongoing drought) on mostly native plants to attract bees and other pollinators.
B’s folks have taken up beekeeping, joining the effort that’s restoring honeybee populations in New England.
Individuals and agriculture using more sustainable practices can help offset the damage caused by human development and monoculture. Some critical ways to help with conservation:
- don’t use poisons in your home or garden! Pesticides, herbicides, and rodenticides affect more than just the creatures you want to get rid of, and kill countless beneficial insects (like bees); keystone species like raptors; household pets, and children.
- focus on mainly plants native to your area, and non-natives that provide necessary nectar and shelter to attract pollinators.
- as a beekeeper, you can make a small initial investment and sustain a relatively low-maintenance hive population; for help, join a local beekeeping association.
- support growers of organic produce, and farmers working on innovative ways to introduce various species of native bees to supplement the work of honeybees.
I can’t possibly overstate the joy of living with a healthy garden humming with happy and industrious birds, butterflies, and bees!