START A PETITION 25,136,189 members: the world's largest community for good
START A PETITION
x
2,484,526 people care about Environment & Wildlife

Use Your Summer Gardening to Help Butterflies and Bees

Use Your Summer Gardening to Help Butterflies and Bees

After a long and arduous winter for some, it’s finally spring. For a lot of you, that means time outdoors gardening, doing yard work, or just enjoying the sunshine. Take it easy. Old Man Winter made you work for it this year.

However, life isn’t so easy for some of our insect brethren. Specifically, the humble honeybee. Honey bees have been in steep decline for almost a decade. The effects of further bee colony collapse will be widespread and devastating. Data from the 2012-2013 winter indicate that U.S. bee keepers have lost just over 45 percent of their hives.

So what if we lose a few bees? Well, bees are pollinators, and, as we all know, to get the most genetic diversity, plants need something to help spread its pollen. The plant feeds the bee, the bee proliferates the pollen among a lot of different plants. It’s a win-win.

But what happens when a type of bee is removed from an ecosystem? You might be forgiven for thinking that another type of bee or another insect or bird would take its place. However, that’s not what the evidence indicates. A 2013 study looked at bees in Colorado. The researchers removed one type of bumble bee from a population of larkspur plants, which in turn was next to a patch of wild flowers. What they found was that other types of bees became more generalized and visited a wider variety of plants. This may sound fine, but it’s really not, at least from the plant’s perspective. The bees were depositing the wrong type of pollen in the larkspur plants, which resulted in a decrease in seed production by a third.

It may sound unimportant, but it’s hugely important. Honeybees are literally responsible for much of the food on our table. Commercial agriculture relies on honeybees to pollinate about 100 key crops, including apples, nuts and alfalfa, which is important for cows.

There are a lot of reasons the honeybee population is in decline (factory farms being one of them), but a big part of the problem is you. Well, us. All of us, with our perfect lawns. Our war on flowering plants and weeds is doing nothing to help the bee population. Don’t cry! You didn’t know! But now you do, and there are some real, tangible things you can do to help your local bee population.

According to the UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab, the three things you need to have for a bee-friendly garden are food, water and cover. The food and water are pretty self explanatory, but the bees also need cover so they can raise their young. The types of plants you should use will change with your region but, in general, you should try to choose native plants that vary in shape and color. The Xerces Society has a fairly comprehensive list of what plants are good for any region in the United States.

But maybe bees aren’t your thing. I get it. You can still help another insect population that is also going through a precipitous decline: the delicate monarch butterfly.

Monarch butterflies have been in trouble for a few years. They are famous for their yearly 2,500 mile migration from the continental United States down to Mexico, where they spend the winter. The problem is that the copious use of herbecide on farms is causing the main source of food for monarch larvae, the milkweed, to disappear. In 2012, an estimated 66 million monarchs made it to their winter home in Mexico. This winter saw just 33 million wintering monarchs.

It can be daunting to go up against factory farms in defense of a butterfly. Luckily, we don’t have to. Like with the honeybee, there are things you can do in your own garden to help. Monarch Watch out of the University of Kansas provides the raw materials to create a “monarch way station.” These way stations take the place of milkweed and nectar rich flowers that used to grow in what are now farms. Luckily for you, now is just the time of year to plant milkweed, which is necessary for monarch larvae to grow to adulthood. It’s also a great time of year for lilac, candytuft and primrose, each a good source of nectar. And there are many more, depending on what season you want.

Speaking from experience, butterfly gardens are the best. I remember as a kid watching the monarch migration from my living room window. It was gorgeous. It’s heartbreaking to think that we’re endangering this phenomenon.

Sometimes, large-scale environmental changes can be daunting to try to combat on your own. But these are two cases where, not only is there something you can do to help, but you also get a beautiful garden to enjoy, as well.

Read more: , , , , ,

Photo Credit: Laurie Branham via Flickr

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it

130 comments

+ add your own
6:27AM PDT on May 18, 2014

Thank you for a very disturbing article which nonetheless still holds out hope if we as individuals get off our duffs (if the shoe fits) and do some of the things suggested.

Just imagine a world devoid of the rich diversity of natural plants and animals. Frogs are already victims. That image is motivating me to take constructive action. I hope that the observations made in the article similarly motivate others.

12:35AM PDT on May 18, 2014

Living in a high rise my intention is to always strive to attract butterflies and bees with plants they like. Last year we even got a hummingbird! Thank you for this article.

2:40PM PDT on May 7, 2014

Thanks for the article.

1:25PM PDT on May 7, 2014

I do my best

6:55AM PDT on May 7, 2014

I will make an individual effort, believing that I can make a small difference.

6:52AM PDT on May 7, 2014

arigato

6:44AM PDT on May 7, 2014

arigato

6:31AM PDT on May 7, 2014

arigato

5:46AM PDT on May 7, 2014

Thanks! I plant heirloom seeds and don't pull milkweed on my small farm plot. Last year the dill was a nursery. This year will be more consciously about butterflies and bees.

5:40AM PDT on May 7, 2014

I planted passionvines, tropical milkwed(they are alrady eating that), lantannas and salvias. Got some bees and butterflies and hoping for more.

add your comment



Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

ads keep care2 free

Recent Comments from Causes

A few points- Where do they get a "fetus" for a fake funeral? I also would bet it's made to look like…

Well sorry I am not buying this CPS doesn't just take our kids for no reason. We are a foster family…

Why are people still drinking bottled water, when it is just filtered tap water in almost all cases?…

Story idea? Want to blog? Contact the editors!
ads keep care2 free

more from causes

Animal Welfare

Causes Canada

Causes UK

Children

Civil Rights

Education

Endangered Wildlife

Environment & Wildlife

Global Development

Global Warming

Health Policy

Human Rights

LGBT rights

Politics

Real Food

Trailblazers For Good

Women's Rights




Select names from your address book   |   Help
   

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.