Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bee Good

Ever since moving to South Bend nearly three years ago, Della and I have been slowly and methodically ridding our front yard of yard. To the utter astonishment of our neighbors, we refuse to use any chemical compounds to hasten the speed of this process. Rather than employing noxious "weed killers," this work is being done with things like shovels, hand trowels and hoes. The work has slowed somewhat as I'm not able physically to put as much of my energy into it...but the work continues, nonetheless.

The reason we're working to remove our lawn is that, like most lawns, the vast majority of the grass is non-native. Each time we clear a sector, we begin to replant the area with native species. Thus far we've added salal, various ferns, kinnikinnick, blue-eyed grass, camas, columbine and a variety of native mints and strawberries. The reintroduction of native plants hasn't been accomplished as speedily as we would like because we're poor and new plants cost money that we have too little of!

This year we hope to add several varieties of native perennial flowers. The introduction of such flora will make our animal-friendly "yard" more bee-friendly. This is important because, as reported by many sources, there is a significant decrease in the number of native bees across the globe and bees are very important to the furtherance of HUMAN life since they pollinate many of our agricultural crops.

In Wales,
Earlier the meeting heard John Dudman explain how although bee colonies traditionally declined by around 5% to 10% a year, they had fallen by 34% in Wales 2008 and by 39% last year. Populations in England had declined by similar amounts.
Similar decreases have been reported in the US:
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, the number of beehives decreased for the third consecutive year in 2009. The beehive numbers fell by 29-percent last year, following declines of 36-percent in 2008 and 32-percent in 2007. Scientists in other countries have noticed similar results and have taken to calling the results "colony collapse disorder."
Several scientists has claimed:
There are a number of threats facing bumble bees, any of which may be leading to the decline of these species. The major threats to bumble bees include: spread of pests and diseases through commercial bumble bee rearing or other methods, habitat destruction or alteration, pesticides, invasive species, and climate change.
A "yard" planted with native species is beneficial, not only to bees, but to other species as well. When you add the important benefit of being less expensive to maintain in the long run -- needs less water, no fertilizer or other chemicals and you don't need to mow it -- it becomes a win-win situation for everyone involved.

If you'd like to learn more about how to make your yard or garden more bee-friendly, there's an organization called the Pollinator Partnership. Their website features a section in which you can download a guide for your neck of the woods which details which native plants will help transform your local habitat.

The bees will thank you!


  1. This is a wonderful thing to do, and I hope that there will be sufficient bees to take advantage of your beautiful bee pasture.

    I was under the impression that collapse disorder (in honeybees) was attributed to mites and/or a virus, not lack of habitat.

    I didn't know anyone raised bumble bees commercially. I learn something new every day!

  2. good for you! right now we have a jungle of non-native japanese knotweed in our back yard that we are trying to get rid of to no avail! however the honeybees seem to LOVE it so it does have its good points. :) they also love the clover in our hay fields.


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