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Toss the turf and help native bees

An effort is underway to keep yards a little "messy" to give struggling native bees a place to call home.

COLORADO, USA — They are critical for pollination and our food supply. But bee populations are declining at alarming rates. 

A recent study showed bee populations in the Southern Rockies have declined about 72% over the past 25 years. It's the result, many experts say, of climate change and pesticides.

But there's a new effort underway to strengthen native bee populations.

All it takes is a few minutes of work in your own backyard.

It's an effort you can see underway at the 19th Street pocket park in Boulder. Andrea Montoya is leading that effort. She developed the Pollinator Advocate Program for the city of Boulder. 

She and a group of volunteers have been removing non-native plants and planting native ones.

"We're not just planting these to create gardens, we're planting this to mitigate climate destruction," Montoya said. 

To some, the result - the messy leaves left behind, the stems and branches - might look like a bit of a mess. But for native bees, it is beautiful.

That's because the native plants provide habitat for a bee population in peril.

"As our climate changes, that's shifting when the plants can occur that's shifting when the pollinators may have food or not," said Steve Armstead, a pollinator conservation specialist with the Xerces Society.

No native plants means no native bees.

"Many of our apple trees, many of our peach trees, those are pollinated by our native insects or native bees," Armstead said. 

"They're declining and it's a population that nobody pays attention to very much," said volunteer Sharon O'Brien. "It makes me feel very good to help the bees."

Because the climate is changing, native plants are struggling as are the bees.

Pollinator advocates stress that by taking small steps like putting native plants in our yards, we can not only help remove carbon from the air, but we can also give bees a home. 

"You will see the change in your own yard," said Montoya. "You will know that you've had a positive impact on climate change."

However, if you don't want to plant, you can provide native bees with another form of habitat.

About 80% of native bees nest in the ground.

By just leaving a few places in your yard that are just bare with a few rocks, or a log or two, can provide great habitat for the delicate bees. 



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