I heart bumblebees! Part Three: How we can help.

Mar 21, 2009 by

I watched the documentary King Corn last night and LOVED it. It's about two men who decide to farm an acre of land in Iowa and grow corn to understand just how the crop gets into so much of our food (and bodies). It's poignant, interesting and thoughtful, and I couldn't help but think how similar the issues they're looking at are to the ones that have caused bee decline. Basically, we're both exploring the downward spiral of agriculture, and its effects on our environmental and bodily health. The King Corn website also offers some great ways to address our agricultural system on the "take action" tab in their website, which gave me some good ideas for this post. So let's get on with it, shall we? How can we help out bumblebees (and bees in general)? First of all, it kind of depends on where you are. I'm going to tailor this to folks in the U.S., but I know there are similar resources in the UK as well. I'll start with the easiest, less complicated solutions and go from there.
  • Make a bee garden. Fun fact: Bees don't see red, but do see blue, yellow, and ultraviolet. So, most of the flowers bees pollinate are yellow, and some are blue (and some are other colors too!). Check out this cool website for some tips on how to make your garden bee-friendly. Here's a bee plant list for those of you that want to get right on it.
  • Save some wild space. If you have some land (or even just a back yard), create wild/untamed spaces for bumblebee habitat. They love long grasses, abandoned animal burrows, etc. So if you can leave some wild spaces in your yards, you'll increase wildlife diversity in general, and attract all kinds of pollinators and birds as well.
  • Buy local. Support small, local farms through farmer's markets and community supported agriculture (CSAs). Small farmers farm more diverse crops than large scale agriculture and usually are much more bee friendly.
  • Buy Organic. Because of the expensive labeling process, not all farmers can afford to be organic, but actually are. That's why shopping at the farmer's markets is so helpful because you can actually talk to the farmers and find out about their farming practices. But buying organic at the store is huge too. Why? Because, to be blunt, pesticides kill bees! So, the more we support systems that don't use pesticides, the more bees will flourish.
  • Learn about the Farm Bill. Creating innovative new farming methods is one of the most important things we can do, which means we have to get involved in our politics. We have to educate ourselves. In the EU, for example, farmers are incentivized by the government (through subsidies) to leave sections of their land for hedgerows and wildflowers to attract pollinators. Got that? Farmers are PAID to leave portions of their land for bees. More bees and pollinators=higher crop yields. Farmers are also moving away from intensive pesticide use and towards organic agriculture. The challenge we face in the U.S. is that crops like corn--which are part of this huge industrial farming complex that eats up all the land--don't need bees, so there have to be other ways to incentivize farmers to keep some of their land fallow. You can get involved and write to your local senators and congress folk and get encourage them to help shape the bill.
  • Join a local preservation group. A popular one in the U.K. is the Bumblebee Conservation Society. Some in the U.S. are:
  • Support honeybee and bumblebee research. One easy way to donate is through Haagan Dazs but the above preservation groups certainly need help as well.
  • Tell your friends!

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