BE A BEE ADVOCATE
If you’re Beesponsible, you’ve already taken bee-friendly actions at home. Now, make your voice heard beyond your backyard — in your community and your country. The challenges to bees and pollinators are real, and now’s the time to take action. Your elected officials need to hear from you. Here’s how.
The use of certain types of systemic pesticides — known as neonicotinoids — threaten the health and existence of bee populations. Enter your zip code below to send an email to your congressional representatives and senators, urging them to support H.R. 1337 Saving America’s Pollinators Act of 2019. This bill cancels eight specific bee-toxic pesticides, including neonicotinoids, and establishes a review and cancellation process for all pesticides that are potentially harmful to pollinators.
Urge your local officials to take meaningful actions for bees and other pollinators in your own municipality. Choose from four different emails to send — just click the boxes below and copy/paste into your own email program. To find the email addresses of your local elected officials, simply visit your city, county, town or local government web page.
Bee-Friendly Green Spaces
Did you know that nearly one-third of the food we eat depends upon insect pollination? Bees in particular are the most effective pollinators of agricultural crops in North America. Unfortunately, bee populations are dramatically disappearing due to widespread pesticide use, climate change and habitat loss. Recently, eight native bee species have even been declared endangered, including the rusty-patched bumblebee, which was once abundant in over half the country.
Just as we depend on bees for our food supply, bees depend on us for theirs. That’s why our community needs areas that attract, shelter and feed bees. As your constituent, I ask your help in creating green spaces on city property, dedicated to restoring bee habitat. A large garden or meadow would be ideal, but any patches of land could work — whether in public parks, along roads or near municipal buildings, like city hall, police stations, schools and libraries. A plan that is friendly to bees can also be simple and cost-effective because it:
- Emphasizes native plant species — those which thrive in our area also provide the best food source for native bees
- Eliminates the need for pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals — especially neonicotinoids, which have been linked to declines in bee populations
- Embraces beneficial “weeds” — there’s no need to mow dandelions, clovers, milkweed, goldenrod or other flowering weeds that have nutritional value to bees
- Encourages the community to do its part in helping raise awareness about the importance of bees
I appreciate your attention to this important issue. With your help, our community can make a positive impact on the well-being of these vital pollinators. Safeguarding the future of bees is a step toward safeguarding our own future for generations to come.
Natural Pest Management
Nearly one-third of the food we eat requires insect pollination, and the most effective pollinators are bees. Unfortunately, bee populations are declining at an astonishing rate. In 2017, the rusty-patched bumblebee, once abundant in over half of the country, was the very first bee in the continental U.S. to be declared endangered (joining seven species of Hawaiian bees). Bee decline is an ominous sign of the worsening health of ecosystems. Without bees, we’re all in big trouble.
A major threat to bees is the widespread use of pesticides. Chemicals that kill unwanted insects also kill beneficial bees and the plants they need to survive. Scientific studies have conclusively linked the use of neonicotinoids to the decline of honeybees, wild bees and other pollinators. The EU Member States have also recently recognized the threat posed by neonics and severely restricted their use.
As a policymaker, you have the power to pass laws, make decisions and set priorities for our community. As your constituent, I urge you to integrate bee conservation into our city’s Park Master Plan, Sustainability Plan, Climate Resiliency Plan and other city plans. Specifically, I ask that you:
- Change landscape ordinances to support integrated pest management and reduced use of toxic pesticides (including bee-harming neonicotinoids and glyphosate).
- Modify weed or mowing ordinances to allow bee-friendly native plants to grow to reasonable heights.
- Expand removal of invasive plant species and re-establish native nectar plants, shrubs and trees in city properties.
For the sake of bees, the environment and us, please integrate bee-friendly practices into our community’s pest management and sustainability planning. Preserving the well-being of these pollinators, and our fragile ecosystems, is critical to our food supply and future.
With Greatest Concern,
"Save the Bees" Proclamation
Dear Mayor [Last Name]:
As your constituent, I am deeply concerned about an issue impacting every member of our community, as well as every individual on this continent: our food supply. Nearly one-third of the agricultural crops in North America rely on insect pollination. Bees, the most effective pollinators, are vanishing at an alarming rate, due to the overuse of toxic chemicals which threaten their health and habitat. Now more than ever, bees need our help. Their future — and ours — is at stake.
I would like you to issue a proclamation urging our community and its citizens to make a difference for bees. Doing so would bring much-needed awareness to this critical issue that affects us all. At the end of this email, please find a suggested “Save the Bees” proclamation, for your consideration.
As you know, effective proclamations are best tied to relevant local events or national days. Here are a few dates which celebrate sustainability, wildlife and the environment, plus links for more information:
- March 3 – World Wildlife Day
- Second Week in March – National Wildlife Week
- April – Earth Month
- April 22 – Earth Day
- May – Garden for Wildlife Month
- Third Friday in May – Endangered Species Day
- June – Great Outdoors Month
- First Full Week of June – National Garden Week
- Third Week in June – Pollinator Week
- Third Saturday in August – National Honeybee Day
Thank you, Mayor, for your attention and efforts. Advocacy for bees will be a shining achievement in your considerable legacy of public service.
Suggested “Save the Bees” Proclamation:
WHEREAS, North America is blessed with diverse wildlife and abundant natural resources, including more than 4,000 native bee species, honeybees that are essential to our nation’s agriculture and many other insect pollinators.
WHEREAS, Bees are our most important and efficient pollinators which are essential to the food supply for people and for wildlife.
WHEREAS, One-third of all the food we eat is the direct result of animal pollinators and wildlife also rely on the natural food chains that cannot function without pollination.
WHEREAS, Insect pollinators are themselves important food sources for other wildlife including the countless birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians that eat the protein-and-fat-rich eggs, larvae, or adult forms of insect pollinators, or feed them to their young.
WHEREAS, One-third of our nation’s wildlife species are at risk of extinction in coming decades, including bees and pollinators like the rusty-patched bumblebee that recently became the first bee species in the continental U.S. to be added to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species list.
WHEREAS, cities, towns and counties play a critical role in helping save bees and pollinators by creating pollinator habitat at parks, municipal buildings, roadsides and throughout the community where our citizens live, work, learn, play and worship.
WHEREAS, I encourage other city officials across our great nation to take a stand with me so that our nation’s bees and wildlife will once again flourish across the continent.
Now, therefore, I, [MAYOR NAME] of the [CITY NAME], do hereby proclaim [DATE] as: “SAVE THE BEES DAY” in [CITY NAME].
Dear [HOA board member]:
I’m writing to respectfully request that our neighborhood lawn and landscaping ordinances be updated to address an important environmental issue that affects us all — the health of bee populations. Bees are responsible for pollinating nearly one-third of the food we eat. Additionally, they pollinate many other flowering plant species that other living creatures depend on to survive. Simply put, bees are vital to the health of our food supply and our natural ecosystems!
Sadly, bee populations are dramatically declining due to several threats including widespread pesticide use and habitat loss. More than 25% of North American bumblebee species face some extinction risk, including the endangered rusty patched bumblebee which was once common across much of the eastern U.S.
But, we can all make positive changes to help reverse these declines. Right here in our own neighborhood, lawns and other greenspaces have immense potential to provide food and shelter for bees (not to mention other beneficial insects that support healthy biodiversity).
The conventional turfgrass lawn requires large amounts of water and fertilizers to maintain, along with frequent mowing and other time-consuming maintenance. Indiscriminate use of pesticides is also a serious problem — according to BeyondPesticides.org, suburban lawns and gardens in the U.S. receive more pesticide applications per acre than agriculture! These chemicals, especially glyphosate and neonicotinoids, have toxic effects on bee populations as well as other insects, birds and wildlife.
Large expanses of manicured turfgrass may be aesthetically pleasing by traditional standards, but they’re essentially barren when it comes to any benefits for our natural environment. We need to rethink our approach to landscaping with more regard for bees and all the life they help sustain. Bee-friendly lawns and gardens are naturally beautiful and healthy, plus they offer many environmental and economic benefits. Landscaping practices that support bees include:
- Prioritizing native wildflowers, shrubs and flowering trees which thrive in our area and also provide the best food source (pollen and nectar) for native bees.
- Eliminating the use of pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals — especially bee-harming neonicotinoids and glyphosate. If chemical intervention is required to treat certain weeds or problem pests, homeowners should be encouraged to choose the most targeted, reduced-risk product available and avoid application when bees are foraging.
- Encouraging natural alternatives for controlling weeds and pests, as well as an appreciation for a few healthy “imperfections” that come with a more natural landscape.
- Allowing some areas of bare dirt (free of mulch or other weed barriers), as well as letting a reasonable amount of leaves remain on the ground through winter. This provides valuable nesting and overwintering habitat for native bees, 70% of which nest in the ground!
- Promoting spontaneous flowers in the lawn. In early spring especially, before other flowers have bloomed, beneficial “weeds” like dandelions and henbit can provide an important food source for emerging bees.
- Converting sections of grass lawn to a bee lawn which includes turf grasses blended with low-growing perennials that bloom again after mowing. Options for flowering ground cover include Dutch white clover (which captures nitrogen and helps feed the lawn), creeping thyme or chamomile. Bee lawns require less water and fertilizer, encourage deeper roots and build healthier soil.
The above practices can be applied not only to homeowner lawns, but also to commons areas throughout our neighborhood, which would ultimately help reduce HOA maintenance costs. Here are some additional insights from recent studies, university research and other programs dealing with pollinator-friendly lawns:
- Lawns mowed less frequently provide more floral resources to benefit bees. One study from 2018 indicated that mowing every two weeks rather than weekly can help encourage bee habitat by allowing flowers to bloom. Regarding height, the general recommendation for a bee lawn is to let grass and flowers reach a height of six inches and then mow back to four inches.
- Increased mowing intensity has negative ecological effects, especially on insect and plant diversity. In several studies, intensive lawn mowing also resulted in an increase in the abundance of weeds and lawn pests. On the other hand, benefits of a modest reduction in mowing frequency include increased pollinators, increased plant diversity and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
- In Minnesota, the “Lawns to Legumes” program is encouraging homeowners to convert their lawns to pollinator habitat that supports bee populations (especially the endangered rusty patched bumblebee).
Changing the ideals of a “perfect lawn” can be challenging. But it is possible to find a happy middle ground that provides attractive curb appeal for homeowners as well as foraging opportunities for bees. Along with the importance of keeping open lines of communication between the HOA board and homeowners, it’s also important for us to be supportive of our fellow neighbors’ efforts to create bee-friendly spaces! Pollinator habitat signage that is discreet yet strategically placed can also serve as a valuable communication and education tool.
Great progress can be made in all these areas if our neighborhood covenants are modified to promote the benefits of bee-friendly lawns and gardens, making such practices more widely accepted and embraced. This is also an opportunity to set a great example and hopefully inspire other neighborhoods to do the same. That said, I understand that there still must be processes in place to ensure proper implementation and maintenance measures. Your attention to this important issue is most appreciated.