Bringing Back the Bees With Sunflowers: It’s the Least We Can Do
APRIL 29, 2021 VOL. 2 ISSUE 18
Submitted by Christine Whelan
Honeybees have thrived for 50 million years. However, seven years ago, it was reported that the bees were dying en masse. The decline started at the end of World War II when farming practices began to change, including the introduction of monocultures and the use of pesticides.
So, why should we care?
Because, not only do we need bees, “We can’t afford to lose bees.” says renowned entomologist and bee specialist Marla Spivak on a TED Talk video about the importance of bees.
One in three bites of food we eat is made possible by bees and other pollinators, who spread the pollen that crops need to grow. That includes many of our favourite foods like apples, almonds, coffee, and of course, honey. Without bees, production of fruits such as cherry, apple, pear and plum, vegetables such as tomato, cucumber and pumpkin, and agricultural crops such as rap, sunflower, red clover and horse bean would be severely reduced.
“And the bees don’t even do it intentionally!” Spivak explains, “They get protein from the pollen and carbs from the nectar. As they move from flower to flower, basically on a shopping trip at the local floral mart, they end up providing this valuable pollination service.”
The bee specialist further gives perspective to the bees’ importance. “Where there are no bees in the world, people are hired to do this pollination, manually, with a paint brush — flower to flower to flower.”
What can we do about it?
Elizabeth Gulino wrote in House Beautiful online magazine, “Want to help save the bees? Start planting sunflowers in your yard,” commenting that it’s the least we can do. “Planting bee-friendly flowers is definitely an easy way to help keep our buzzing friends alive, and the sunflower is the perfect option for a summertime plant. They’re rich in nectar, and are the perfect color to attract bees—the flying insects actually can’t see reddish tinged colors, so sticking with yellow, blue, white, and purple flowers are especially helpful.”
Tips for growing sunflowers
Choose a sunny location to plant your seeds. Sunflowers need optimal sunlight—around six to eight hours a day—and thrive when they grow in hot summer climates. When in bloom, your sunflowers will face east.
Plant seeds 1″ in the ground, and 18″-24″ apart. If planting more than one row, plant rows 30″ apart.
According to The Farmer’s Almanac, the bright yellow blooms prefer well-dug, loose, well-draining soil, and they thrive in slightly acidic to somewhat alkaline soil.
Keep moderately moist until germination (10-14 days).
Gulino suggests, “One thing to know before planting these pollinator-attracting flowers, bees prefer when their favourite blooms are grouped together, because they gather nectar from flower to flower. So make sure you’re not growing just a couple—you’ll need a whole group of them to please the bees!”
Another benefit to planting sunflowers: Self-care
But did you know gardening can do wonders for your well-being? Here are some surprising health benefits of gardening.
Gardening can build self-esteem. You may think you weren’t born with a green thumb, but what if you tried to plant some seeds this spring, and they began to grow? It always feels good to accomplish new tasks, and if you can grow sunflowers to help bring back the bees, what else can you do?
Gardening is good for your heart. Digging, planting and weeding burns calories and strengthens your heart.
Gardening reduces stress. Gardening can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Who couldn’t use this in these days?
Gardening gives you a chance to focus on something and put your mind to work with a goal and a task in mind. This is especially helpful now, with so much illness and death and talk of death, just to see things growing and things thriving.”
Gardening can make you happy. While bent over, digging in the dirt, inhaling m. vaccae, a healthy bacteria that lives in soil, can increase levels of serotonin and reduce anxiety.
Gardening can improve your hand strength. All that digging, planting and pulling will increase your hand strength.
Gardening is good for the whole family. Gardening can be a solo activity or an opportunity for bonding with your circle. Gardening has special benefits for kids. Early exposure to dirt has been linked to numerous health benefits, from reducing allergies to autoimmune diseases.
Gardening can give you a boost of vitamin D. A healthy dose of vitamin D increases your calcium levels, which benefits your bones and immune system. Exposure to sunlight helps with your of vitamin D intake.
Be a Keeper.
Cheerios is asking for help. “Join our mission! Help us continue to create a bee-friendly world by planting sunflowers! They are giving away free sunflower seeds. No purchase is necessary. Up to four seed packets per household is the limit. The offer is valid until August 31, 2021, or while quantities last.”
It’s the least we can do.