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Three Things You Can Do To Help Local Pollinators

A honeybee with full pollen baskets on the hind legs.
Joan Muller
A honeybee with full pollen baskets on the hind legs.

It’s estimated that somewhere between a quarter and a third of the food we eat requires the help of pollinators, like honeybees. Unfortunately, beekeepers have been reporting dire declines in bee populations in recent years, and several species of bees have been added to the Endangered Species List in recent months.

There is a whole host of likely culprits, including habitat loss and pesticides. But bee researcher and advocate Noah Wilson-Rich points the finger squarely at one event in the year 1987.

"I call it the year the game changed for beekeepers," says Wilson-Rich. "That's when the varroa mite came to the United States. And with it, it brought all other infectious diseases, from bacterial to fungal to viral infections. It's kind of like the floodgates opening, and really changing the trajectory of bee health."

It's not a hopeless situation. Wilson-Rich's research (and that of multiple other scientists) is focused on finding solutions. And he's uncovering some tantalizing, if mystifying, clues. For instance, bees appear to be doing better in urban environments than in rural ones.

In many cases, the key is making sure bees can find enough food. And that's something everyone can help with:

  1. If you're an elementary school teacher: Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge to offer a free professional development workshop for educators interested in planting pollinator gardens at schools. Plants, seeds, and approximately $200 worth of additional materials will be provided. The workshop begins on February 28th, 2017.
  2. If you have time to volunteer: Friends of Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge is working with local land conservation groups to turn several acres of land in Falmouth, MA, into pollinator-friendly habitat. Email if you are interested in helping.
  3. If you have available yard space: The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge is a nationwide effort to get gardeners (and others) to create and preserve pollinator-friendly areas with native or non-invasive flowering plants, water sources, and no pesticides. The website includes lots of resources on how to get started, and how to register your garden.
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