Creating Pollinator-Friendly Gardens can Benefit Bees and Properties
With pollinator-friendly gardens, apartments can add a little color and variety to their landscapes and at the same time help preserve the bee population.
The bee population, which pollinates flowering plants that help produce up to a third of the world’s food, has been in significant decline in recent years. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) is encouraging the public to take steps to help prevent loss and stabilize the bee population by creating pollinator-friendly gardens.
Edible and non-edible gardens are a growing amenity in the apartment industry, and installing a pollinator garden to help attract the bumbling insects is, well, the bee’s knees. Communal gardens are known to bring residents together, and pollinator-friendly gardens will do the same for our bumbling friends while helping restore the bee population.
Consider the garden a sort of bee halfway house.
“We’re encouraging people to create pollinator friendly-gardens,” says Missy Henriksen, NPMA’s Vice President of Public Affairs. “We’re talking about bees that may be passing through your property that are being raised by professional beekeepers. Those are what we want to be attracting with a pollinator-friendly garden.”
Pesticides are being blamed for killing thousands of bees
The cause of declining bee populations hasn’t been officially determined, although mites, foraging issues and use of pesticides are suspected to be factors.
Neonicotinoid pesticides have been cited for killing thousands of bees, prompting a buzz among government agencies at the federal, state and local levels. Some home improvement stores will soon stop selling these pesticides entirely. In 2013, an improper application of a dinotefuran product was determined to be the cause for killing 50,000 bumble bees. Other similar incidents of bee kills have been documented.
The issue has escalated to Capitol Hill, where President Barack Obama capped National Pollinator Week last June by issuing a Presidential Memorandum expanding Federal efforts to reverse pollinator losses and helps restore populations to healthy levels. The Memorandum establishes a Pollinator Health Task Force chaired by the Secretary of Agriculture and the Administrator of U.S. EPA and charged with developing a National Pollinator Health Strategy within six months that includes an Action Plan.
How soon the sting will be taken out of the declining populations is hard to tell. But experts says that if something isn’t done soon, the world food supplies could be affected.
“Simply put, without bees to spread pollen, a large number of fruits and vegetables will not be able to form and grow, severely impacting farmers and consumers alike,” says Dr. Richard Fell, pollinator health advisor for the NPMA and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Entomology at Virginia Tech.
Pollinator-friendly gardens at apartments can help attract bees
Henriksen says property owners and managers can create a pollinator-friendly garden with flowering plants, herbs and vegetables while also enhancing the landscape. Even if a communal vegetable garden is out of the question, the presence of wildflowers, lavender, sunflowers, golden rod and honey suckle will add color to common areas and give bees a place to hang out.
She suggests working with local landscapers and garden centers to determine the best plants to use. A variety of plants is best, she said.
“Look up and identify flowers and flowering plants that are native to your region,” Henriksen said. “That’s what pollinators in your community would be most easily adapted to, that’s what they’re ready for, that’s what they’re looking for and that’s what works.”
She even recommends adding some plants that bloom in the evening to attract moths.
A healthy bee population should be handled with care
Since Spring is here, temperatures are beginning to warm up enough in some parts of the country to begin creating areas to attract bees. Planning now for the summer season doesn’t hurt either.
However, Henriksen cautions that stinging insects can pose health threats, so gardens should be planted away from apartment units and outdoor seating areas to keep residents and pets safe. Each year, about 500,000 Americans are treated for bee stings.
If bee populations become unmanageable, the NPMA suggests getting an apiarist or professional beekeeper, or pest management professional to assist. Spraying a bee hive and killing the pollinators is a last resort.
“If you contact an apiarist or pest management specialist, there is a chance the beehive can be safely removed and the pollinators preserved,” she said. “If homeowners or property managers spray a hive, then no beekeeper can take it and the pollinators within it cannot be maintained. There are ways for professionals to remove hives intact, safely, that would allow the pollinators to live.”
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