Did you know there are more than 20,000 bee species in the world? Of those bees, 450 are native to New York State, and they come in all shapes, sizes and colors.
The North Shore Land Alliance recently hosted a lecture with bee expert Dr. Kate Lecroy of Cornell University. Attendees had the opportunity to learn about the amazing world of native bees and what Long Islanders can do to help protect them.
There is still so much that we don’t know about bees. Many are smaller than a grain of rice and almost 10 percent of bees in America are yet to be described. Native bees play a huge role in our ecosystem, pollinating almost 80 percent of flowering plants around the world and many important, high-value crops in New York are dependent on bees.
Unfortunately, many of our native bees are in decline. More than 50 percent of North American native bee species are in decline and nearly 1 in 4 are at increasing risk of extinction. According to Dr. Lecroy, most bees are threatened by habitat destruction, overuse of pesticides, climate change and predation by non-native bees. Dr. Lecroy also found that non-native bees out-competed native bees in developed areas, while native bees thrived in unfractured, open spaces.
There are many things that we can do to help native bees thrive in our own backyard. Some of the best practices suggested by the Empire State Native Pollinator Survey include:
1. Reduce pesticide and herbicide use.
2. Control invasive plants and maintain native species. Aim to plant species that bloom year-round to provide a long-term food source.
3. Mow your yard less and cut at the tallest setting. Let flowering grasses bloom longer and preserve bee habitat.
4. Minimize outdoor lighting as it can disrupt foraging behaviors of bees.
5. Leave coarse woody materials on your property for nesting habitat.
Native bees are indispensable to the health of the natural world and are perilously under protected. Let’s start helping bees by making small changes in our yard because without these tiny, tireless creatures our world would be a less colorful and interesting place. Visit www.northshorelandalliance.org to learn more about how you can save the bees.
—Submitted by the North Shore Land Alliance