Why Care About the Bee Crisis and How You Can Help
You may have noticed that there has been an increase in talk about bees in recent years. Statements are being made about how there is a very real and credible threat to their existence, with scientists, conservators, and agriculture experts in agreement. Multiple species are experiencing record decreases in population throughout the world, and the situation is bad enough that the European Union formally issued a ban on the usage of insecticides harmful to bees in 2013. Colony collapse disorder, which is a phenomenon that is basically wiping out entire hives with no clear cause, has slowed down since it began ten years ago but the rates are still alarmingly high.
As horrible as the situation is, many people do not understand why this is an issue that humans should care about. A significant portion of the environment and everything in it is tied to bees, and that includes people. Bees are pollinators who play a crucial role in agriculture and food production; fruits and vegetables, as well as honey and wax products, are major parts of our way of life. Around one-third of our food supply is dependent on pollinators like bees. So, if it’s on your plate and it came from a plant, you likely have bees to thank for it. Animals also get much of their food from plants that are pollinated by bees, so bees are indirectly responsible for your non-vegetable meals as well.
It’s not just food sources that depend on bees either. Plants that are not consumed also need pollination for things like reproduction and genetic diversity, which helps them exist. They also help create the beautiful landscapes that are found throughout nature. Do you like greenery and flowers? Ever enjoy the sight of a rose, lily, or a peony in full bloom? Bees, yet again. There is just so much that would not exist the way it does without their involvement and that is why it is so important to care that they are in grave danger.
So what can YOU do to try to help bees in their time of need? Quite a bit actually, and right from the comfort of your home, too! As of late, the easiest thing that anyone can do is plant bee-friendly plants in their yards and gardens. These often include flowers and herbs that are native to your area, which are going to be more comfortable and tolerant of the climate—and therefore will be noticeably durable compared to non-native species. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation has lists of plants that are pollinator-friendly by state or region. You can also talk to experts at your local plant nurseries for advice and tips.
If you don’t have a green thumb or the space to host plants, you can still help out. You can put “bee baths,” little plates or shallow dishes of water, outside for bees to get a drink and cool down. You can volunteer with or donate to conservancy groups like The Honeybee Conservancy, the Pollinator Partnership, the Xerces Society (mentioned above), or a local group in your area. Habitats like bee blocks or hotels, which you can purchase or build yourself, can be put out for bees to move in and set up a colony. Just make sure that you give them enough real estate around the habitat so they’re not bothered. You can also support your local beekeepers by buying locally grown produce and honey when you go grocery shopping—check your local farmers’ market for a variety of fresh options.
We may see them as pests at times, but in reality, bees are key to human survival. The time is now for us to show them our appreciation by helping them thrive again!
Fall Means Winterizing Your Garden and Lawn
Autumn is the time to get your lawn and garden ready for winter, as well as prep for next year’s bounty. That means there are a few small chores you need to do before it gets cold in your area.
First, assess your results. Take a walk around your yard and gardens to see what worked well and what didn’t. Did you try something new that worked? Did a vegetable produce less than you expected? Write all this down so you’ll know what to plant next spring. Note which plants have overgrown their space, as you may need to divide them.
Keep an eye out for bare spots in mulch that might need a bit of replenishment, and look at the plants and determine if there are any diseases or damage. Replace your summer annuals that have finished their cycle with new cool-weather annuals, such as asters, chrysanthemums, pansies and cyclamen. You can add compost and peat moss to replenish nutrients.
Be sure to mark your perennials. Put sticks in the ground where your perennials will come back so you don’t forget where they are. Now is a good time to fertilize them, too. Look for a fertilizer with a high potassium content, which will promote root growth, making your plants more hardy.
If you have house plants to bring in, do so before you turn on your furnace and remember to them to get rid of pests.
Transplant your fruit plants, such as strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb. They can deplete the soil of nutrients, so they need to be moved every three or four years.
This is when it’s time to plant your bulbs. Shop early for the best selection, then get them in the ground six to eight weeks before the first hard frost. In the spring, you’ll have beautiful tulips, daffodils and more blooming in your yard.
Rake leaves -- but not all of them. Leave some under trees and bushes, as they become much-needed compost. Make sure to get the leaves scattered in your perennial beds and lawn. If left behind, they can cause crown rot and attract fungi and insects.
Put your raked leaves in your compost pile so you can use it for your plants later. If you don’t have a compost pile, they’re really easy to start. It’s basically layers of dirt, leaves, food scraps and shredded newspaper to make the richest soil additive there is.
Keep mowing, and when it comes time to finish for the season, lower your mower blade to the lowest level for the last two cuts. This way, more sunlight will reach the crown of the grass. Fall is also the time to aerate the lawn. You can rent a gas-powered aerator, which will poke holes in the ground. This allows water, oxygen and fertilizer to reach the roots.
Your cool-season grasses are now recovering from the summer heat and drought and getting ready to enjoy their best climate. Fertilize your lawn with a slow-release all-natural fertilizer, ideally around November, when you’re finished mowing but the ground isn’t frozen. You might even want to put down a second application of pre-emergent herbicide. This will take care of weed seeds that fell during the summer months. In the spring, you’ll do an application to get rid of weed seeds that spent their winter in your lawn, making your lawn grow more lush and beautiful next year.
The fall may seem like the end of your garden’s peak beauty and growth, but it’s a time to extend its beauty and prepare for a more fruitful next year. It only takes a little work to be prepared for the winter dormancy and help ensure a beautiful sprin