CO-Horts Blog

Monday, April 10, 2017

More Bees Please!

By:  Kelley Rawlsky - CSU Extension, Broomfield

Thinking back to my childhood days of sprinting across grandma’s clover lawn barefoot trying to avoid stepping on and consequently getting stung by bees, I never thought I’d be one to promote increasing their population. If you have ever stepped on a bee, it is quite painful. The stinger of the honey bee is barbed and embeds into the skin, and the stinger and poison sac are left behind. Does the honey bee really die after stinging? Unfortunately, yes.  

After studying horticulture and learning the importance of bees and other pollinators, I am firmly now on their side. Honey bees, in particular, are exceptional pollinators. Many crops, including apples, pears, peaches and melons, are dependent on them. CSU Extension has estimated the value of this pollination, which is provided freely from the local honey bees for our crops here in Colorado, at greater than $20 million annually. This doesn’t even include the several million dollars of honey and beeswax products that are also produced. So, bees are important!

We’ve all heard about the declining bee population. The reasons why this is occurring are varied and numerous, but the good news is we can do our part by planting more pollinator friendly plants in our yards. This will help the bee population by giving them nectar and pollen, but it will also help draw these pollinators to our yard so they can help pollinate our own edible gardens. 

 Attracting more bees to the yard is mostly beneficial, but if you or someone who frequents your yard is allergic to bee stings, then it might be a good idea to take a pause and rethink your approach to including a pollinator garden. Approximately one percent of the population develops hypersensitivity to bee or wasp stings which can then result in difficulty breathing, dizziness, nausea and hives. Symptoms, such as these, may require immediate attention from a physician.

In my own yard, planting a lot of pollinator plants has had some unintended consequences. Our 10 year old labrador retriever likes to snatch up flying, buzzing insects with her mouth. It’s quite obvious that she gets stung most of the time because of the way she shakes her head afterwards with a puzzled look. As many times as I try to explain to her that bees are our friends, she just doesn’t learn.

What to plant? Flowers! Here are some good choices that are water-wise and well adapted to our climate: Agastache rupestris (hummingbird mint), Echinacea purperea (purple coneflowers), Penstemon x. Mexicali, and Perovska atriplicifolia (Russian sage). For a more detailed list, see: Gardening for bees - or not! by Whitney Cranshaw, ColoradoState University

In case you're wondering, not all of the pics included are of honey bees. Maybe there's an entomologist out there who can identify them for us!

1 comment:

  1. Honey bees are becoming extinct and there is a strong need of save their species. Pollination is largely done by honey bees. It is good that you are taking steps to prserve their breed and others should also participate in this.