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Have you ever wondered about the air quality in Wichita, KS? I had the opportunity to visit one of the air quality monitoring sites in Wichita. This site continuously measures the amount of particulate matter (tiny particles that can be inhaled and can negatively impact the heart and lungs), radiation, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide in the air. Daily Wichita air quality information is available online at the Wichita Air Quality Index. You can also visit the Air Now site for additional information and health warnings.

 

Have you ever heard warnings about our ozone levels – especially on hot summer days? Ozone is colorless and is found in air all around us. An ozone rating of 0 to 50 is good and will not result in negative health effects. However, a rating between 101 and 150 is unhealthy for people with respiratory problems, small children, the elderly, and people working or exercising outside. Some key contributors to increased ozone levels are motor vehicles, industries, and gas stations. Emissions from these sources react when exposed to sunlight and ozone is one of the products.

According to Air Now, there are ways to reduce your contribution to Wichita ozone levels:

  1. Limit driving whenever possible – combine errands, work from home, teleconference, carpool, walk , or use public transportation
  2. Refuel your vehicle early in the morning or after sunset
  3. Minimize idling of your vehicle
  4. Conserve electricity by using a programmable thermostat
  5. If you use a gas mower, postpone mowing to a day when the ozone levels are expected to be lower

One way to help our pollinators, especially the honey bees, is to plant a bee garden at our home or office. The choice of plants for a bee garden is determined by multiple factors. It is advantageous to use native plants because they are well-suited to a particular climate zone. Plant choice should take into account both the pollen and nectar requirements of honey bees. Flowers for a bee garden should be single (such as daisies or marigolds) rather than double (such as most roses and carnations). It is important to select a variety of plants so that they will bloom at different times throughout the year, thereby providing a constant food supply whenever temperatures are high enough to allow bees to forage. Keeping these factors in mind, individuals or communities can help increase honey bee habitat.

Helpful website: top 30 flowers for bees http://honeylove.org/top-30-flowers-for-bees/

The honey bee, or Apis mellifera, plays an important role as a pollinator in the American food system (Great Plains Nature Center). People enjoy many fruits and vegetables pollinated by honey bees; however, Americans may have to seek other pollinators if annual survival rates of honey bees do not improve. A bee hive is composed of interactions between bees of different ages each helping the colony ensure its survival. If any part of the life cycle is disrupted by parasites, fungi, toxins, malnutrition, or starvation then the colony may not be able to survive. One solution is to plant bee gardens that provide bees with the necessary resources to help them face threats.

Honey bees are not only important because they are part of a larger ecosystem, but also because they have a significant role in the human food system. Humans manipulate the relationship between bees and plants in order to produce large quantities of food. In 2009, the American Association of Professional Apiculturists (AAPA), stated that

   Honey bees provide essential pollination services to US fruit, vegetable and seed growers, adding $8-14 billion annually to farm income and ensuring a continuous supply of healthy and affordable foods for the consumer. About 2 million colonies are rented by growers each year to service over 90 crops. The almond crop alone requires 1.3 million colonies and is predicted to require 2.12 million by 2012 (about 95% of all colonies currently in the US). (para. 1)

Approximately 90% of commercially-grown crops and 33% of U.S. food depends on honeybees for pollination. Common bee-pollinated foods include apples, nuts, blueberries, and strawberries. This dependence on honey bees for pollination of large areas of a single crop demands colonies of migratory rental bee colonies, as referenced in the AAPA quote. The health of these traveling rental pollinators as well as the health of other honey bees is critical.

There are several things that average citizens can do to contribute to the survival of honey bees in the United States. First, homeowners can avoid using pesticides in their yards. In addition to not harming the environment that already exists, citizens can improve that environment by growing native plants which are a rich in the nutrients needed by bees. Better nutrition will strengthen the immunity of bees so that they have a greater chance of being able to withstand the variety of threats to their health.

See my next blog for information on planning a bee garden for your home or business.