One of the great things about spring is the arrival of homegrown fruits and vegetables that we enjoy through the summer.
Think of your favorite fruits, vegetables, even nuts. Think also of the beauty of our gardens and the vivid colors that brighten the landscape.
And thank the bees.
Bees pollinate about 80 percent of our most common crops, everything from avocados to zucchini.
Without bees, the backyard barbecue would be a sad affair. You would have the hamburger and the bun, basically. No tomatoes (imagine a world without tomatoes!), lettuce, onion, pickles. Having hotdogs? Forget the mustard, ketchup or relish.
When we think of bees, we most often think of honey, but the list of flowers, fruits, vegetables and, in some varieties, nuts rely on bee pollination is extensive.
A world without bees would be drab, tasteless and, ultimately, unhealthy.
While it is impossible to calculate the overall bee population, there is evidence that the bee populations among managed beekeeping operations are in steep decline.
Over the past 15 years, beekeepers have been reporting annual hive losses of 30 percent or higher, well above the rate thought to be normal or sustainable. If the world population of bees resembles what beekeepers are reporting, it is cause for alarm.
Scientists have been studying the loss of bee population for years now, but have not discovered the root cause, mostly likely because there is no one leading cause of the decline.
Studies show that certain pesticides may contribute to the loss of population, but there are other suspected causes as well, including parasites, pests, pathogens and poor nutrition.
Garden clubs and extension services are putting together programs to aid people who want to establish their own beekeeping operations.
In the coming weeks, Mississippi State will open its new apiary at its entomology complex where it will host classes and workshops in partnership with the MSU Extension Service and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station (MAFES).
Beekeeping continues to grow as a popular hobby, but its importance goes beyond the enjoyment of an affordable pastime.
But you don’t have to start your own bee colony to help our bees bounce back.
Planting flowers and flowering shrubs and trees is a good place to start.
Another idea, one proposed by horticulturist Felder Rushing, is what he calls “lazy mowing.”
Right now, as our lawns are coming out of winter dormancy, there are flowering weeds in abundance. The temptation to mow may be strong, but Rushing said if you see anything blooming in your lawn, mow around it. As the temperatures rise, those flowering weeds will die off. In the meantime, their blooms are a source of food for bees.
It seems the least we can do, right?
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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