Why we should stop talking about honey bees.
Save the bees! The bees are dying! If bees become extinct, humans will only live for a few more years!
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve probably heard one or all of these refrains. Are bees critical? Absolutely. A 2007 study examined agriculture data from 200 countries and found that fruit, vegetable, or seed production from 87 of the leading global food crops is dependent upon animal pollination, while 28 crops do not rely upon animal pollination. When the scientists looked at global food production from these crops, they found that 35% of the world’s food production comes from crops that depend on pollinators. (Although more than three times as many crops worldwide require pollinators, the crops that are wind pollinated are mostly made up of crops that make up a large percentage of our diets worldwide — wheat, corn, sugarcane and rice are all wind pollinated). So that bit about “every third bite we eat is reliant on bees” rings true, in some sense.
So why am I arguing we should stop talking about bees? I’m not, really. (Ah! That sneaky click bait title!) What I am arguing for, however, is that we pay a lot more attention to our native pollinators, and not just honey bees. When we hear the term “bees” our mind flashes right to honey bees. But there are thousands of species of bees that don’t produce honey!
Here’s a knowledge bomb for ya: honey bees are not native to the United States. Yup. At one time, no honey bees lived here. The only continents that honey bees can truly call home are Europe, Asia, and Africa. Honey bees were brought to the U.S. by European settlers. However, 4,000 species of solitary (native) bees call the U.S. home. So why don’t we ever hear of these ‘native’ species? Because they don’t produce honey, and I think we can all admit that we are a self-serving society. Solitary bees get no love, because they don’t produce a delectable sweet substance that we can stir into our tea, baked goods, and yogurt.
But! These solitary bees, such as mason bees and leafcutter bees, are in some ways better pollinators of our native plants than honey bees! For example, tomatoes require native bees for pollination, and others like squash and blueberries are better pollinated by native bees.
Unfortunately, similar to honey bees, we have cause to be worried about our native bee population. Native solitary bees have taken a huge hit because of loss of habitat and lack of dietary diversity.
Thankfully, helping our native pollinators is super easy. Although solitary bees don’t produce honey, they also don’t live in colonies, are incredibly docile (I dare you to try to get a mason bee to sting you), and don’t require any ongoing maintenance. As a result, providing a habitat for these bees is super easy!
You can build your own habitat, or check out our BeeBuilders kits. Our kits contain a hand-crafted solitary bee home, with detailed instructions on how to best ensure native bees move in! Some kits even contain cocoons of hibernating solitary bees to get you started. Our bamboo has been carefully selected for diameter and cut to the length best suited for nesting native bees.
Whether you decide to provide a habitat for our native bees or ensure your yard is bee-friendly by planting native blooming plants, refraining from the use of pesticides, or providing a water source; I hope you help raise awareness about these important forgotten pollinators.
At Two Hives Honey our passion is education about all pollinators. See all we have to offer at www.twohiveshoney.com!