Info, Tips, & Recipes
|Posted by Mimi's Garden, Inc. on September 10, 2016 at 3:15 PM|
"Plight" of the Bumblebee
Honey Bees are the most important crop pollinator in the United States. Unfortunately, due to disease and other environmental factors such as pollution and destruction of natural habitat, the number of honey bees is believed to have dropped about 50% since the 1950's. We need to help encourage the population of Solitary Bees (who do not tend to sting humans like wasps or colonizing bees, such as Honey Bees or Bumble Bees) to sustain the population of crop plants and flowers; and thus, keep nurishing the human population.
A solitary bee is a bee that does not colonize like honey or bumble bees do. Because of this solitary life-style, they are less prone to diseases which can ravage a colony. Native solitary bees are highly efficient pollinators that produce larger and more abundant fruit for certain crops than the honey and bumble bees do. Maintaning a honey bee colony at you home isa lot of work and less then ideal, but providing a nesting box for a solitary bee take no work at all!
The males die off shortly after reproducing, while the females live on until just after producing a brood of eggs. Females will tunnel into the ground or use pre-existing holes in wood, and deposit a mixture to sustain the eggs through their larva and pupa stages. The mixture is relevant so they can emerge from the nest as adult bees to begin the lifecycle once again. Solitary bees will not sting or swarm like honey bees and bumble bees, only because they do not have a hive to protect. However, if their short life is threatened they will try to defend themselves, but this is very rare.
This solitary bee is hard at work on this sunflower.
Attracting Solitary Pollinators
Approximately 30% of solitary bees will use pre-existing wood holes or hollowed out canes in which to construct their broods cells or "nest" for their eggs. The other 70% of solitary bees will tunnel into the ground for nesting. Depending on the species, they will travel between a few hundred feet and a mile to forage for nesting supplies. This makes it important to provide plants that will attract the bees throughout the nesting season. Most species will nest in March, April, and early May. Some will take a year to complete their lifecycle, while others will continue to breed throughout the season. Since there are so many different species that breed and nest at different times, it is important to provide a food source throughout the growing season. Planting perennials and annuals, along with vegetables which flower from early spring to late summer will guarantee to attract some native species. By providing the right habitat, the bees will be here to stay.
These days, most people have beautifully maintained and manicured lawns. This is esthetically pleasing, but bad for the bees in many ways. The key is to find a balance which would keep our yards looking great, while providing a "bee-friendly" environment.
Read your labels for products that do not kill bees. If you insist on keeping your lawn weed free, then plant some early blooming perennials for the bees to collect nesting materials. Otherwise, bees emerging from their nests in early spring will need food and leave your yard in search of it and probably won't be returning.
The lack of dead plants and trees does not provide wood tunneling bees anywhere to nest. However, you can purchase one of Bill's Bee Boxes to help in this situation. These simple wooden structures provide a variety of sizes of tunneling holes to attract various species of solitary bees. They are esthetically pleasing and can be placed anywhere in the yard (they will definately be a conversation starter). They are easy to maintain as well... just let nature take its course!