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August 19th is National Honeybee Day!

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The honeybee is a vital part of our everyday lives, even if we don’t realize it. More than 30% of the fruits and vegetables we eat and more than 70% of the agricultural crops used for food (such as grains) are pollinated by bees. Without bees, honeybees in particular, we would be unable to produce enough food for human survival. Honeybees also produce honey–not only a great natural sweetener, but honey also has beneficial natural anti-microbial properties. Many people enjoy local honey to help lessen the effects of allergies.

Bees in Peril
Unfortunately, honeybees are in peril. Increasing incidents of Colony Collapse Disorder are resulting in concerning declines in bee populations. From April 2015-April 2016, beekeepers reported an alarming loss of 44% of their bee populations. There may be a few different reasons for the increase in colony collapse and losses, including parasites, genetics, and pesticides/insecticides used in yards and also agriculture. Of these reasons, the use of pesticides and insecticides is one that everyone can do something about.

Be a Honeybee Helper
If taking up beekeeping doesn’t sound like an appealing hobby to you, there are still lots of ways you can help your local honeybee population. Here are just a few things you can do:

  • Buy local and organic. Get your honey from local beekeepers and honey producers to keep the local honey market strong. Also, in general, the more organic foods you buy, the better. Organic produce helps reduce overall use of pesticides and insecticides in the environment.
  • Learn the difference between honeybees and other stingers. Unless threatened, honeybees are rarely aggressive because they can only sting once and afterward, the bee quickly dies. Other stingers such as yellow jackets, hornets and wasps, can sting multiple times and are typically much more aggressive. Yellow jackets and honeybees are often mistaken for each other, however, yellow jackets are distinguished by their smoother and elongated body with black and yellow stripes. Honeybees have yellow and brown stripes and often have a shorter and wider body. Recognizing the difference helps you know when something buzzing around your yard is worth the worry.
  • Turn your garden into a honeybee-friendly oasis. Select native plants and nectar-producing flowers for your landscaping. Native plants and flowers are more likely to flourish without extra work or pesticides. Native species have already adapted to the region, local growing conditions and common area pests.

National Honeybee Day is this Saturday, August 19, 2017. Check the libraries, gardens and parks in your area for events to learn more and to celebrate the vital role this often misunderstood insect plays in our daily lives.