Native pollinators - help them thrive!
Bees are responsible for the pollination of every third bite of food you take and sip of juice you drink. Other insects such as flies, moths, butterflies and beetles pollinate the rest. We help ourselves by providing nectar for bees and protecting them from harmful gardening practices.
Intuitively, we can assume that pesticides and other insect poisons used on and around plants will kill bees. But, in fact, herbicides and weed killers do just as much damage to North American native bees and bee colonies.
North America’s bees range in size from one-twelfth of an inch to one inch long. Some bees live in colonies; others live alone. Some bees live in hollow plant material and others dig tunnels in the ground to make nests.
Five of the seven families of bees are common in American gardens. Altogether, there are around 20,000 species of bees in the world; and, 4,000 of those species live in America.
Warm, dry climates such as CA are home to 2,000 species. But the rest of us have more than we realize. One researcher identified 200 species living in rural IL. Over 100 species thrive in New York City, with 50 species living in a single community garden.
Bumble bees are usually round, yellow and black, with hair on their abdomens. Metallic sweat bees are a bright metallic green color. Carpenter bees are usually black with a shiny abdomen. Their strong mandibles dig into wood where they make nests.
There are 1,400 species of North American Mining Bees that come out of their ground nests in early spring. They are black and will sting when threatened. Sadly, the Internet is full of helpful hints on how to destroy them and their nests.
Honey bees are gold to black or dark brown with striped abdomens. These European natives are smaller than bumble bees. They use a hind leg to collect nectar from flowers to make honey.
Just as we learn the names of plants and how to improve our soil, pollinators and bees are fascinating and worth learning more about.
The Xerces Society (www.xerces.org) is a 40-year old conservation movement that focuses on invertebrates, including, bees, beetles, butterflies, moths, aquatic insects (caddisflies), and crustaceans (pill bugs, crabs, crayfish, and lobsters).
Their new book, “Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies”, was coauthored by four Xerces Society staff members: Eric Mader, Matthew Shepherd, Mace Vaughan, Scott Black with help from Gretchen LeBuhn.
LeBuhn is from The Great Sunflower Project, www.greatsunflower.org, the world’s largest citizen science project focused on pollinator conservation.
Both of these organizations urge us to plant more pollinator-friendly flowers, create habitat, and reduce the amount of harm we do to them.
For example, if each of us planted a few more pollinator friendly flowers, spent less money on insect and weed killing, and encouraged public entities to do the same, we could make a difference.
The 380-page, “Attracting Native Pollinators” is divided into four sections:
1) Pollinators and Pollination explains the value of pollinators, their natural history and habitat needs.
2) Taking Action explains how to help pollinators by creating nest sites and foraging areas. It includes tips for golf courses, farms, urban parks, and gardeners.
3) Bees of North America has profiles and photos of thirty commonly found native bees.
4) Creating a Pollinator-Friendly Landscape shows how gardens, parks, and farms, can be enhanced to support pollinators. There are sample planting designs and fifty pages of illustrated plant lists.
Published by Story Publishing in 2011, the book is 384 pages of photos and fascinating information. $30 at Xerces Society, www.xerces.org and $17 at online vendors.
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