Giving Native Bees a Boost

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Regarding the May 10 Home article "The Flight of the Honeybee: A Mystery That Matters":

The sudden loss of honeybees across the United States should serve as a wake-up call regarding the way we have allowed a single species of insect, and a non-native one at that, to become so important to our food supply.

Species diversity is vital to a healthy environment, but commercial agriculture has taken us to the opposite extreme. Monocultures put our food system in jeopardy. We grow miles and miles of a single crop, and trouble with one species, such as what's happening to honeybee pollinators, can have a devastating impact.

The truth is that non-native honeybee populations have been declining for years. But native bees, the forgotten soldiers of the food supply, also are good pollinators, are widely distributed and are not picky about their food sources. They too have suffered major declines as their field and forest habitats have given way to suburbia.

Though native bees will never be as prolific as honeybees, we can help them bounce back. The simplest solution is to grow native plants in our gardens. Expanses of lawn are no better than miles of a single crop. Why not remove some of that turf and plant a wildlife garden? Throw in some squash, beans and peas, and let the native bees go to work. The result would be a healthy and secure food supply, and you wouldn't need a single honeybee to produce it.



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