Summer of Bees
Have you heard what the buzz is about? After a long, cold winter, summer is finally here! Flowers and trees are blooming, plants are sprouting, and the pollen count is through the roof. If you’ve walked around campus anytime in the last couple of weeks, you’ve probably noticed that insects have also sprung back to life as well. May 20 was World Bee Day, which is dedicated to raising awareness about the significance and importance of bees around the globe and their declining numbers.
Bees and certain types of insects are critical around the world for pollination of plants, including the food we eat. According to Insect Identification, Ohio is home to almost 700 types of insects. In fact, Dayton has a unique ecosystem due to the various habitats available for the hundreds of species of bees and insects. Chelse Prather, a professor of biology at the University of Dayton, stated that Dayton was historically home to deciduous forests and tall grass prairies. Both of these areas make for a greater potential for various species of insects to live harmoniously.
There are also native bee species that live in the Dayton area, such as the bumblebees, mason bees,and “sweat” bees. Unfortunately, some of these native species of bees, as well as insects, are facing decreasing numbers and endangerment. Prather expressed concerns with the declining bee and insect population due to habitat destruction and pesticide use:
“The main things [contributing to the declining insect population] would be habitat fragmentation. This area would have been forest and prairie historically, but as you look around, it looks very different. There is not a lot of continuous pieces of prairie and forest around. We’ve made all of these little fragments of habitat that they are relegated to living. If they don’t necessarily have a good year, and the blip out in one of the fragments, it might be hard for them to get back into it. We’ve basically destroyed their habitats from using pesticide to control mosquitos or control pests on farms. That has caused, we believe, for insect numbers globally to be declining.”
But, this does not mean that all hope is lost for our native insect species. Prather also listed ways for students and Daytonians to help give back and protect the bee and insect populations:
1. Be smart about when you apply pesticides. Understand that if pesticides are used to get rid of mosquitos and other pests, it will also cause declines in the native insect species.
2. Plant native plants. Instead of planting species of things that are not from around this region, find the native plants which the insects from this region know how to use. Some native plants include types of wildflowers, particularly the super pollinator Rattlesnake Master, a species that attracts a variety of bees and other insects.
3. Prairie restoration. Anyone can actively participate in prairie restoration around the Dayton area and give back to this region that we call our home.
Prather also wants everyone to understand that the majority of insects are here to help us, not harm us. And for those who are afraid of bugs, Prather said, “It is a normal thing to be afraid of insects for a lot of different reasons. I think that the major reason is that they [insects] are so very different from us that we can’t even conceptualize them because they are just gross, have too many legs, or because they creep and crawl or move in a way that we’re not used to. It is okay to be grossed out or disturbed, but try to think about the good things that they do and keep that in mind before you kill them.”