Power to the Pollinators

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According to the Center for Food Safety, bees are dying at an alarming rate due to the use of certain agricultural pesticides, and are engaged in a court battle with the US Environmental Protection Agency to hold them accountable for their failure to protect pollinators. Between now and the end of the June, your contribution to help defray the costs of this legal battle will have double the impact — donate here.

To provide a safe haven for pollinators in your own backyard, fill your landscape with bee-friendly plants. Glenn Hall, associate professor in University of Florida’s entomology and nematology department, has been studying bees for most of his career and now focuses mostly on Florida’s native bees. While he’s quick to point out that the debate about exactly how much the planet’s bee population has dwindled is still ongoing, scientists do agree that loss of habitat and increased urbanization are having a negative impact on these very important pollinators.

“Disease, a combination of environmental factors, systemic insecticides, and monoculture farming are mainly responsible for stress on the bee population,” he says. “Especially for oligolectic bees, which feed on a single source of flowers. Those are the ones that are most vulnerable. If you destroy their habitat those bees will disappear.”

According to Hall, it doesn’t take much to begin upping the food supply for bees. In fact, any flowering plants are helpful, especially those native to Florida. “The first year that a bee garden is planted, it would Black-eyed-susan1-1024x768simply be attracting bees that are already in the area and that usually have sufficient forage already,” Hall says. “However, consistent planting every year would be necessary to increase bee populations.”

Flowers such as roses, Carolina jessamine, Black-Eyed Susans, Impatiens, Marigolds are all bee friendly, as are shrubs such as Saw Palmetto, Walter’s Viburnum Trees, Chaste Tree, and Sea Grape.

“And of course, don’t spray them,” says Hall, who also suggests making sure plants bought at a nursery haven’t been previously sprayed.

To learn more about the plight of the modern bee, watch this 2013 TED talk by bee researcher Marla Spivak.

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