Humans are so intimidated by insects that we continually try to eradicate them even while we mourn the loss of biodiversity in other species. But it doesn’t work that way. The interplay of life on Earth is vastly complicated and the species are all interdependent.
Saturday May 22 is International Biodiversity Day and I urge everyone who is reading this to go outside and do something today to help the insects—especially the wild bees. Although honey bees experience many problems peculiar to their species—such as migratory beekeeping and Varroa mites—they share many problems with their wild counterparts. Chemical pesticides, loss of habitat, loss of appropriate food sources, environmental pollutants, and urbanization are just a few.
So what can we do given we all have similar challenges: lack of time, lack of money, lack of space, or lack of knowledge? Here are a few choices that might work. Yes, it would be nice to buy and fence off chunks of land the size of Rhode Island—but I’ll try to make these financially reasonable.[list icon=”check”]
- Buy or borrow a field guide about your local insects. It’s amazing how much more we care about an insect when we know what it’s called and what it does for a living.
- Plant a bee-friendly plant in your garden, window box, or patio container. It’s true that one or two plants won’t support a bee, but many people doing the same thing could make a difference. Mint family plants are an excellent choice. Wild bees seem to especially love oregano.
- If you own a yard, leave an unmowed patch somewhere. Long, tall grasses and weeds are perfect habitat.
- Forget the chemical pesticides. Most of us live in places where the hand-pulling of weeds is perfectly doable, and if you have beetles on your prize rose bushes you can hand-pick them as well. Avoiding pesticides is good for your family and pets as well the environment.
- Plant wildflowers in your garden instead of hybrids. Wild species often have better quality pollen and nectar, as well as more of it.
- Leave some bare patches of earth. From a young age we are taught to mulch everything, but many species of bees need mud. Bumble bees like to nest in bare patches and mason bees use mud to seal their brood.
- Provide a source of water. Wild bees and other insects need water just like the rest of us.
- Have extra plants or seeds? Give them to friends. Tell people why insects, especially bees, are so important. Are you sending a greeting card to a friend? Don’t forget to enclose a packet of bee-friendly flower seeds.
- When you find a bug in your house take it outside. Why smash it or flush it? What’s the point?
- Read, read, read. Read about insects, read about biodiversity, read about environmental degradation, pollution, climate change, and habitat fragmentation. The more we know, the better the decisions we make. [/list]