Bees are an important part of any garden environment and the workhorse pollinators serve a special need for their health. For example, there are about 4,000 species of native or wild bees in the continental U.S. This includes carpenter bees, bumblebees, leafcutter bees, sweet bees and mason bees. Today, these populations are in peril and many of the above mentioned bee’s populations have seen a decline.
Some estimates say that the U.S. has lost over 50 percent of its honeybee colonies in the last decade. This radical drop has been described as the colony collapse disorder or CCD. The CCD is illustrated as a sequence of symptoms that causes are not fully understood to this date. Although, most scientists estimate that the contributing factors may contribute to this disorder and they include diseases, parasites and contact with pesticides. A diminution of plant diversity from commercial agriculture could also be upsetting the honeybees’ capacity to get all of the nutrients required for health and also responsible for a lack the sources needed for pollen and nectar.
Importance of a Garden
Envision if every family or home gardener around the world took the necessary steps to increase the food and habitat for our little bee pollinators. As a group, we could add millions of acres for our little bee pollinators to call home! This would be a simple and rewarding way to make our landscape a bee pollinator heaven.
STEP 1: Avoid using pesticides: Many pesticides — even organic ones — are toxic to bees and other pollinators. Use cultural techniques to control pests, such as crop rotation and row covers, as well as nontoxic controls, such as trapping and hand-picking. If you choose to use pesticides, use them only as a last resort. Choose targeted pesticides, such as Bt for caterpillars (keep in mind this kills butterfly larvae as well). To protect pollinators, do not use pesticides on open blossoms or when bees or other pollinators are present.
STEP 2: Create diverse plantings: Different pollinators are active at different times of year, so include a variety of plants that bloom from early spring through late fall. To attract the full spectrum of pollinators, choose plants of various heights, including flowering trees and shrubs, and those with a range of flower shapes and sizes.
STEP 3: Create habitat: Perfectly neat yards do not provide the raw materials wild bees need to construct their nests. Provide good nesting habitat by preserving a small brush pile, areas with dry grasses and reeds, and dead wood. A muddy area will provide essential nesting material for mason bees.
STEP 4: Choose blue, purple and yellow: Bees find blue, purple and yellow flowers most appealing. Flat or shallow blossoms, such as daisies, zinnias, asters and Queen Anne’s lace, will attract the largest variety of bees. Long-tongued bees will be attracted to plants in the mint family, such as nepeta, salvia, oregano, mint and lavender. Long-tongued bumblebees are attracted to flowers with hidden nectar spurs, such as larkspur, monkshood, monarda, columbine and snapdragons.
STEP 5: Single flowers are best: Single flowers — those with one ring of petals — provide more nectar and pollen than double flowers, in which extra petals have replaced pollen-laden anthers. Double flowers also make it more difficult for bees to reach the inner flower parts.
STEP 6: Plant wildflowers and native species: Because wild bees and wildflowers evolved together, you can be pretty confident that native wildflowers will provide bees with an excellent source of both pollen and nectar.
In Conclusion: Pollinator Partnership sponsors National Pollinator Week, and their web site offers loads of resources, including educational tools and activities. Local gardening groups, native plant societies and other environmental groups all have volunteer opportunities. Help spread the word about the importance of pollinators’ declining populations and what individuals, schools and communities can do to help.