Gardening to Save Bees, Pollinators and Plants
Thanks to the wonderful work of pollinators like bees, much of the food we eat and flowers and plants we enjoy are possible. And it’s not just bees that are doing all the work. Butterflies, birds, beetles, bats, wasps and even flies are important in the pollination process. Examples of crops that are pollinated include apples, squash, and almonds. Without the assistance of pollinators, most plants cannot produce fruits and seeds. The fruits and seeds of flowering plants are an important food source for people and wildlife.
Domestic honey bees hives are down by 59% compared to 60 years ago with rapid declines over the last forty years. This long term decline was punctuated by recent average losses of 30% per winter since 2006. The populations of some native bee species may also be declining.
Keystone Gardens cares about the environment, we have a stake in it as landscapers and as human beings. This blog post, hopefully, inspires you to create a bee friendly garden and if you need help with that, please don’t hesitate to make an appointment with one of our designers today! 610-688-5969
What can we do to encourage native bees?
Pollinators need a diverse, abundant food source and a place to build their nests and rear their young. As land managers, if we keep these two elements in mind we can encourage native bee populations.
Pollinator habitat should have a diversity of flowers that bloom at different times to sustain a diverse group of pollinators throughout the growing season. Flowering plants in your hedgerows, riparian buffers, set-aside areas and gardens can all provide essential food. Not all flowering plants are equal! Some species provide lots of nectar, others provide lots of pollen, and pollen nutrients of different plants vary. It is important to encourage the growth of a wide variety of flowering plant species to best feed your bees, especially generalists like bumble bees. For specialists, like the squash bee, the specific host (squash or pumpkin) must be in the landscape.
Not surprisingly diet is important for bees, just like it is for us. Bees get their sugars from nectar, and their protein, fats and micronutrients from pollen. In order to balance their diets, most bee species need to gather pollen and nectar from a diverse range of flowers. When bees have a simple diet of just one type of pollen and nectar, they don’t get all the vitamins, amino acids, fats, and antioxidants they need.
Include flowering plants in your cover crop mixtures and give them time to flower to provide additional bee forage. Penn State is working on building summer and fall cover crop mixtures that flower successively providing continuous forage for bumble bees and honey bees. The current summer mix trial includes buckwheat, mustard, sunflower, sunhemp and cowpea. The fall planted mix includes peas, vetch, clover and an oat nurse crop. We are still learning about cover crops for bee forage.
During times of drought, irrigation may also encourage native bee pollinators.
Nearly 70 percent of bee species nest underground.