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If I told you to picture a bee in your head, chances are the first image to buzz around your mind is the likeness of the honey bee, or more specifically, the European honey bee, Apis mellifera. What most people don’t know is that these bees are just one of the world’s 20,000 species of bees. And, while Apis mellifera is a crucial pollinator, if we truly want to “save the bees” it’s time to give our local bees a little love!
And there is plenty of love that needs to be given. In the United States, there are over 4000 species of native bees. 1 And a great majority of them are being overlooked by many of our bee-saving campaigns.
As it turns out, creating a more native bee friendly world can be pretty simple–and won’t involve you needing to learn any technical skills, don a bee suit, or risk getting stung.
Apis mellifera – The New Bee In Town
This non-native bee steals the limelight for a very good reason, 80% of flowering plants in North America are pollinated by these marvelous miracle workers 2. According to the Bee Conservancy, 1 in 3 bites of food you eat were pollinated by bees–and more than likely that bee was the European honey bee! While they may be agricultural allstars, there are thousands species of bees native to North America that are in desperate need of the resources we’ve pooled into saving the safest species.
Local Bee-odiversity Matters!
One way conservationists measure an ecosystem’s overall health is by assessing its species richness, or biodiversity (if you’re a Goodness Exchange superfan you’ll remember this from an older article of mine). Areas with higher biodiversity are more resistant to environmental distresses such as drought, and are more effective at buffering the spillover of zoonotic (animal-born) disease 3. Despite its agricultural importance and cuteness, the European honey bee does little to help native biodiversity, in fact they can outcompete native species, and lower the species richness of the area they inhabit.
All of this aside, the European honey bee is not the enemy! Much like cows or chickens, Apis mellifera is a domesticated species, and relies on continued human intervention to thrive, but our work shouldn’t end with mellifera.
Well, you’ve heard enough from me, let’s dive into this amazing video from Vox that contextualizes the issue perfectly!
Pretty eye opening, right? Vox has a wealth of interesting content on their YouTube channel, so if you ever have a moment to spare dive into their library of videos and enjoy!
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It’s Not All Buzz! You Can Help Save Our Bees Too!
Now that we’ve versed ourselves in all things bee, let’s make a real world change with our own hands and just a few hours of our time. One of the easiest ways to help local bee populations is to provide them with a safe place where more solitary native bees can seek refuge and rest. You can easily set up a Bee Hotel in your own backyard, all you need is a piece of untreated wood and a drill!
Step 1: The Right Log for the Right Job
The great thing about designing a bee hotel is that all it really boils down to is a piece of wood with various holes drilled into one side, leaving you a lot of room to get creative with what you provide your buzzing friends. Feeling more roadside motel? Any piece of untreated lumber will do just fine, but if you’re looking to give them a five-star experience, using a log from a native tree is the best you can do to mimic their natural habitat, and will be sure to make them feel right at home during their stay 5!
Step 2: This Is Not a Drill! (But You Definitely Want to Use One for This)
Now that you’ve acquired the structure for your hotel, it’s time for some renovations! Again, creativity is your friend here, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box! Throughout the wood you’ve selected, you’ll want to use a drill to make various holes alongside one surface. It’s best to drill holes about a half inch to an inch in diameter, but accuracy is unnecessary as long as you think a bee could fit, chances are they can! The goal here is to encourage different species of bees—and even other flying insects to find a bit of respite at your hotel, so make sure you’ve got room for all shapes and sizes of insect 6!
Step 3: Location is Everything—Even for a Bee Hotel
The best place for your hotel is somewhere elevated (where water won’t sit and flood your hotel when it rains) that’s around a bee-friendly area. Remember, we’re trying to get the natives here, so the optimal spot is near a variety of native flowering plants your bees can get sustenance from and pollinate. (Hint: if you want maximum bang for your buck, set your hotel up close to your garden, and the little fellas staying under your roof will give your plants an extra boost!)
Don’t Let Your Eco-Heroism Stop with Bees!
Humans have an incredible impact on their surroundings, and it doesn’t take much to leave a negative impact. Worry not! There are so many ways you can do more good than harm, and we’ve got your back! To learn more about some of those ways (or more about some wonderful bee initiatives in our world,) check out these articles next:
Weeds are a Good Thing! Why the Biodiversity in Your Backyard Matters
It’s difficult to fully comprehend the stunning complexity and diversity of life on our planet, and even more difficult to understand how deeply that complexity and diversity matters. Ready for a deep dive into why biodiversity matters? Read on to see how you can help the planet by starting in your own backyard!Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
No Space Wasted: The Urban Honey Bees Making City Life Sweeter
Urban jungles are saving the future of our most precious pollinators. Cities may seem like strange places to find beehives, but from New York City to London to Detroit, bees are thriving in their new urban environments. Here’s how you can help them out!Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
Embark On Your Journey to a Zero-Waste Lifestyle with These First 5 Adjustments
Do you find yourself throwing too much stuff away? Are you ready to live a greener way of life? Let’s dive into what living a zero-waste lifestyle means, its benefits, and how you can get started!Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
How Saving the Bees Is Saving the Veterans!
Saving the bees and saving veterans at the same time? Meet Eric, an Iraq veteran who is helping ease the PTSD he and other veterans experience by sharing his love for bees and creating meaning, joy, and healing, in much needed spaces.Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
I think it’s safe to say that you’re now prepared to be the hero your local bees need, so get out there, share this story with your friends and community, and have some fun making the world a little more native bee friendly.
Remember, you can make an impact.
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- “How Many Species of Native Bees Are in the United States? | U.S. Geological Survey.” Usgs.gov, 20 June 2023, www.usgs.gov/faqs/how-many-species-native-bees-are-united-states. Accessed 6 Sept. 2023. ↩
- “The Value of Birds and Bees.” Farmers.gov, 22 June 2020, www.farmers.gov/blog/value-birds-and-bees#:~:text=Honey%20bees%20alone%20pollinate%2080,of%20many%20other%20pollinator%20species. Accessed 6 Sept. 2023 ↩
- “Biodiversity & Your Health» Nature and Culture International.” Nature and Culture International» Bringing People Together to Save Wild Places, 10 Apr. 2020, www.natureandculture.org/directory/biodiversity-covid-19/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwl8anBhCFARIsAKbbpyQLk2dID5b2SM-PcdEZPtDF9QC-h5-wP_C4UD6oDsxjTa6UEXqtMCQaAo-sEALw_wcB. Accessed 6 Sept. 2023. ↩
- Vox. “What We Get Wrong about Saving the Bees.” YouTube, YouTube Video, 14 Aug. 2023, www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxHu46YKnZg. Accessed 6 Sept. 2023. ↩
- “Build Your Own Native Bee House.” Beyond Pesticides, 2023, www.beyondpesticides.org/programs/bee-protective-pollinators-and-pesticides/pollinator-curriculum/build-your-own-native-bee-house. Accessed 6 Sept. 2023. ↩
- “What Is a Bee Hotel? | NC State Extension Publications.” Ncsu.edu, 2020, content.ces.ncsu.edu/how-to-manage-a-successful-bee-hotel/what-is-a-bee-hotel. Accessed 6 Sept. 2023. ↩