Hope's Corner: To Bee or Not to Bee
"Honey bees pollinate about $15 billion worth of our crops each year: grains, fruits, and veggies. Most of these bees are 'managed' bees," writes Jackie Hope.
I have recently decided that dandelions are flowers. And, therefore, there is no need to pop them, pull them, or poison them.
I have science on my side. Bee conservationists with the USDA, the government agency that recently told me my week-old potato salad was not in any way safe to eat, are working with honey-producing states in the upper Midwest to help protect honey bees. North Dakota is one of those states.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service, NCRS, is part of the USDA. Their bee scientists tell us that one out of every three bites of food eaten in the United States is made possible by honey bees. Considering my sweet tooth, probably every bite of food I eat is dependent upon bees.
Honey bees pollinate about $15 billion worth of our crops each year: grains, fruits, and veggies. Most of these bees are “managed” bees. That means they are kept in hives and are taken care of just like cattle and sheep and goats. Not only do managed bees pollinate our crops, but their hives give us the honey we buy in stores. This is big, because where would we get our pfeffernusse ingredients without honeybees?
The NCRS people are working with bee keepers and farmers, to encourage them to provide more forage for bees and other pollinators. Wasps, butterflies, and moths also do their part for pollination. And hummingbirds too. But bees are, by far, the biggest group of pollinators found in nature.
There are programs to help farmers plant wildflowers in fallow fields and in non-producing areas. The NRCS also encourages buffer zones of native grasses around planted fields. They are targeting states in the upper Midwest, where two-thirds of the country’s bee population spends it summer months. The goal is to provide enough food for the bees, so they can safely hibernate during the winter.
And then the bees can do their part, pollinating our crops. Being a selfish sort, I am thinking of my tomatoes and my gourds. But I am all for bees pollinating your squash and zucchini, as well.
The USDA says that helping the bees will help other beneficial insects. Just a note here, mosquitoes are not beneficial insects. Dragonflies and ladybugs are good guys. Planting bee-friendly flowers and native grasses offers good forage for cattle, too. And, finally, the USDA suggests that helping the bees helps to strengthen our farm economy. Now that is something we all can get behind.
what can we townies do to help the bees?
Seed catalogs, farm stores, and other vendors offer seed selections especially for pollinators. There are honeybee garden plants, butterfly garden plants, and hummingbird-loving plants available at greenhouses.
And what do we do while waiting for all those seeds to sprout and for all those flowers to bloom? We leave our beautiful yellow dandelions alone. We let the bees get fat on dandelion nectar. And the dandelions that the bees don’t need can always be turned into dandelion wine.
Jackie Hope is the longest running Dickinson Press contributor and columnist. "Hope's Corner" is a weekly humorous column centered on a message of hope for residents in southwest North Dakota.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Dickinson Press, nor Forum ownership.