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Kelley Conversations: How you can help bees

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Posted at 10:14 AM, May 18, 2023

The buzzing of bees working is essential to our food supply.

Farmers.govsays if you are a flowering plant, 80% of them and more than 100 types of fruits and vegetables are pollinated by honeybees. Colony collapse has caused a lot of concern in the last few years as bees died off.

Horticulture Associate Specialist Abiya Saeed of MSU Extension Specialists shares what we can do to help bees.

Abiya Saeed: The topic of colony collapse is pretty complicated. One of the things is that honeybees aren’t native to us, although they’re a really important part of our food systems. We have 4,000 species of native bees in the United States. A lot of times these are the bees that are overlooked. Even in Montana, we have between 500 to 750 different species of native bees. These are some of those bees that you might just walk past a flower and not even notice they’re there. But these are also really important pollinators of our native plants and help create the food for all of our other animals that share it and also help with a lot of agriculture.

A lot of these natural habitats are turning into more urban and suburban landscapes where there are fewer places for these bees to live and less food for them to eat. Another impact is pesticide use, especially improper pesticide use which impacts them negatively. Some of the best things you can do is by being a good gardener and creating a pollinator habitat in your garden. Leaving a section for your bees, making it a variety of different flowering plants and making sure that there are diverse varieties.

We have ground-nesting bees and cavity-nesting bees that nest in those little tunnels or tubes. For ground-nesting bees, one of the best things that you can do is leave some bare so those bees can access it. They’ll tunnel out and build their national soil. Then for those cavity-nesting bees, leaving your landscapes a little bit wild.

Donna: How about dandelions? We’ve talked about leaving the dandelions for the bees and then mowing them down. How do you do that to help the bees and not let the dandelions take over?

Abiya Saeed: Some flowering lawn weeds are really good sources of food for pollinators. Things like clover, but dandelions aren’t really that nutritious of a source of nectar and pollen for bees. When you hear about topics like ‘No Mow May’, the intention is really great because you want to think about these beneficial insects like pollinators. If there’s nothing else around to eat, bees will utilize dandelions and the best ways to combat dandelions in your landscape would be to make sure you have a really healthy lawn.