By Asia DiBenedetti, USM Sustainable Food Eco-Rep
Spring is here (hopefully!) and you may be thinking about your summer garden. While all those fruits and veggies are certainly something to look forward to, don’t forget to thank your pollinators by planting some pollinator friendly plants in or around your garden. Bees play a key role in sustaining our agricultural industry and therefore feeding us all.
Saving the bees has been a hot topic in recent news but how concerned should you be? How could little bees make such a huge impact? Well to tell you the truth, bees provide pollination to a majority of our crops allowing them to reproduce. According to Greenpeace, without the help of bees, we would lose one third of our crops leaving us with not way to pollinate them. Since 2006, 40 percent of commercial honey bees have been lost in the U.S. alone and another 45 percent in the UK since 2010. With human populations increasing in size and appetites, these dire circumstances are not sustainable. Hunger is still a problem not only in the U.S. but all over the world and will continue to worsen if we cannot maintain our agricultural resources.
So, why are bees dying? Pollinator habitats are physically and chemically destroyed. Majors sources of this destruction bee include unsustainable, industrial agricultural practices; parasites and disease and climate change. Industrial farming practices utilize chemical pesticides that have adverse effects on bees reproduction. This exposure to toxic pesticides limits bees ability to resist certain parasites and diseases. Climate changes such as increasing global temperatures, rainfall patterns and extreme weather events also play a major role in bee habitat alteration.
What can you do? While saving bee populations from extinction sounds like a heavy task for one individual, it will really take collaborative effort to make the most impact. This is not only true for preventing bees from being extinct, but also for many other serious threats to our environment facing our world today and in the future. This spring, try planting some pollinator friendly plants in your backyard or garden like alfalfa, asters, buckwheat, daisies, forget-me-nots, goldenrod, mints, mums, red clover, sunflowers, sweet milkweed, fruit trees such as apple or plum and raspberry or blueberry bushes.
You can also help bees by supporting your local farms but signing up for CSA or visiting a farmer’s market. Also, don’t forget to check out USM’s edible Food Forest. The Food Forest is located on the Portland campus just outside of Luther Bonney near the picnic tables. Looking for seeds? Just bring your USM ID to the front desk of Glickman library and ask to see the seed library available at no cost to USM students, staff and faculty.
Want to learn more about sustainability and get involved at USM? Visit https://usm.maine.edu/sustainability to learn more.