Honey bee colonies require a sufficient and balanced diet in order to thrive. However, in some landscapes, such as ‘green deserts’, expanding acres of row crops, or large expanses of concrete urban sprawl, worker bees are unable to find enough flowers to give them a varied diet. This can weaken their colonies and make them more susceptible to disease. In response to this situation, the North American Bee Care Program has called on organizations and individuals to help feed honey bees and provide the pollinators with new forage sources.
// Bee health is closely linked to their food supply.
// Strips of flowers provide forage areas for many insects.
// Through the US Feed a Bee initiative some 50 million flowers have been planted.
// Participants of the initiative raise public awareness for bee health by sharing their flower meadow photos on social media – through #FeedABee.
A bee colony needs about 70 kilograms of honey to feed itself throughout the year. For each kilogram of honey they produce, the honey bees have to gather around three times as much nectar, visiting up to six million flowers in the process. Yet some landscapes are lacking a diversity of flowering plants. As a result the worker bees are unable to find enough diverse supplies of food, causing a lack of nectar and pollen that weakens the entire colony. “We are often asked what individuals can do to help honey bees,” says Dr Becky Langer, director of the North American Bayer Bee Care Program. “This prompted us to launch the ‘Feed a Bee’ initiative in March 2015.” The goal was to plant 50 million bee-attractive flowers within a year and thus provide additional forage acreage for the insects.
Everyone had the opportunity to lend a helping hand: American bee supporters could request one of thousands of free packets of wildflower seeds online and grow their own pollinator patch – or ask the Bayer Bee Care team to plant flower beds on their behalf. Additionally, “Feed a Bee” partners committed to planting acres of pollinator habitat on their company’s grounds. The initiative reached its goal in only eleven weeks through the participation of more than 200,000 individuals.
„The campaign exceeded all expectations.“
Dr Becky Langer
Director of the North American Bayer Bee Care Program
“We were overwhelmed by the enormous response,” says Dr Langer. “The campaign exceeded all our expectations.” The result is indeed impressive: Pollinating insects now have large areas of flowering habitat to provide nutrition – some 65 million flowers through wildflower seed packets planted by individuals and more than 1,300 hectares through large company partners.
The project shows what can be accomplished when people work together. “We can now set our sights on larger goals,” says a pleased Dr Langer. “In 2016, the basic goal of ‘Feed a Bee’ will remain the planting of flowers but we will introduce national partnerships to reach broad audiences, augment the education portion of the program and work to connect existing partners to further expertise and resources. For instance, North Carolina State University students will use the North Carolina Department of Transportation Roadside plots for pollinator field studies.”
Through the support of some 200,000 people and numerous industrial partners who helped plant bee forage, large areas of additional flowering habitat have been created. This improves honey bees’ food resources and, thus, their health.
Flowering meadows are more than an eye-catcher: They provide bees with important forage. The US team will continue distributing packets of wildflower seeds at some Bee Care events.
The BEEFRIENDly campaign provides the opportunity for other countries, such as Germany, to enrich the bees’ menu. These schemes help people plant their own pollinator patches, which then attract pollinators and beneficial insects to the garden. They offer nutrition,nesting and refuge habitats for insects throughout the summer.
www.feedabee.com – this website explains which flowers are particularly nutritious.
Some 1,300 hectars of flowers have already been planted by large company partners of the US Feed a Bee initiative – that’s an area about four times the size of Central Park in New York City.
Billion-euro pollinators: Around 75 percent of the world’s major crops depend, at least partly, on insect pollination. These bees contribute around 235 - 577 billion US Dollars to the global economy annually – up to 8 per cent of the total production.
Source: IPBES Pollination report