Bees are the most important pollinators in agriculture and are also extremely important in natural areas as well. (1) They are responsible for pollinating 70 of the roughly 100 crops that feed 90% of our world’s population, which equates to $30 billion each year in crops. (2) Despite their importance, the planet’s bee populations are struggling. Many species are at risk of becoming extinct. If we lost bees, we would not only lose those crops but the animals who rely on those crops as food, essentially the food chain would begin to collapse. (2)
Thankfully, there are organizations and people who recognize this problem and are taking actions to improve the situation. One of those groups in the state of Minnesota.
Minnesota Pays Citizens to Create Bee-Friendly Lawns
Minnesota has set aside almost $1 million to boost the suffering bee population in their state. There plan, set to roll out in spring 2020, is to encourage homeowners to stop caring for their lawns in the traditional sense, instead to grow lawns filled with wildflowers, clover, and native grasses. (3)
The bees used to rely on the flowers and grasses in the wild-open fields of the state, but as Minnesota becomes increasingly urban, they are now forced to rely on suburban and city lawn flowers. (3)
The state is providing homeowners with grants to stop spraying herbicides, cut their lawns less, and allow their lawns to return to a more natural state. People are encouraged to plant the types of wildflowers that the bees like, such as (3):
- Dutch white clover
- Creeping thyme
- Ground plum
All of these flowers are inexpensive and require little to no intervention to maintain. Dutch white clover, for example, is the primary source of pollen for 55 of Minnesota’s 350 bee species, and grows short enough so that people don’t have to change the settings on their lawnmowers.
One pound of Dutch white costs about $7 – compare this to the up to $500 grant that a homeowner can receive, that is a pretty solid deal. (3)
Depending on whether you live in a primary, secondary, or tertiary bee population zone, you are eligible for $500, $350, and $150 respectively. (3)
Bee Initiatives Around the World
Minnesota isn’t the only place taking action to help reestablish bee populations in their region. Researchers all over the world, from Europe to Australia, to California, are discovering that city gardens, parks, and green spaces may be the key to saving their native bee populations.
Chicago has started implementing green roofs, which not only help combat city heat problems but also support local bee populations. (1, 4)
According to Rebecca Tonnieto, a biologist at the University of Michigan-Flint, cities can truly be a refuge for bee species. The diversity in city gardens and green spaces are more conducive to their survival needs than the monoculture agricultural lands or meticulously curated “perfect” suburban lawns.
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
Launched in 2015, this initiative is a collaboration between conservation, gardening, and civic groups to create gardens and landscapes that encourage bees and other pollinators to come and live. Their goal is to return 1 million pollinators to their native regions. (5)
The Pollinator Partnership is an organization working in North America and around the world working to support pollinator populations and help increase their populations. They have science and national advisors helping them to provide the best education, resources, and innovations to their local partners. Visit their website to learn how you can get involved. (6)
How You Can Make Your Lawn More Bee-Friendly
Making your lawn a better place for bees is not only easy to do, but it will save you time and money on lawn maintenance. Follow these steps to make your lawn more inhabitable for pollinators:
- Replace your current lawn with grasses and wildflowers native to your region.
- Plant a variety of flowers (at least 3 kinds) to ensure that you have blooms all year round (or in colder areas, in the spring, summer, and fall.)
- Research what type of bees and other pollinators are native to your area and what habitats they need to create spaces or “homes” for them in your yard.
- Stop using herbicides and only use natural fertilizers and pesticides. Make sure whatever you use won’t harm the pollinators coming to your garden.
- Install a bee bath. Bees need fresh water to drink in order to work. It doesn’t have to be fancy: a container with clear water and sticks and pebbles to land on will suffice.
The Bottom Line
Bees are incredibly important to our ecosystem, or economy, and the health of our planet. Creating space for them to fulfill their pollinating duties will keep their population at appropriate levels and keep the world functioning properly.