Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What's the Buzz?

There are over 4000 species of native North American bees.  The honey bee, European in origin, is not one of them.  Native species do not live in hives, and are not generally aggressive.  They are not protecting a queen.  They may live in holes in trees, wood piles, in holes they dig underground, maybe even the bee house made by us humans.  One in three bites of food in North America is pollinated by bees.  In Rhode Island, native plants such as blueberries, cranberries, squash, and melons are best pollinated by native bees rather than honey bees.  While honey bees provide many benefits, including the health benefits of honey and in combating allergies, there's much the non-bee-keeper can do to help our native pollinators thrive.

In recent years, populations have declined.  It's difficult to know how much, as study of native bees has been limited.  The Franklin bumblebee, one of several species of bumblebees, is believed to be extinct.  The rare rust patched bumblebee, however, has been sighted in areas it was believed it disappeared from.  Citizen Scientists can report sightings to  This guide from Clay Bolt is a good place to start.

The best way to help pollinators of all types is to provide nectar sources from native plants early spring until late fall.  Early spring flowers include dandelion, ajuga, dead nettle, chickweed, clovers, common or false strawberry, pear and apple trees.  Late spring will be azaleas, blueberries, cranberries, and many crops.  Drought-tolerant and native species such as echinacea, liatris, milkweed, thistle, and more keep nectar going through the hot summers.  Herbs left to flower are well-liked by bees in my yard, especially borage, oregano, lavender, and thyme, transitioning late summer into fall.  Sedums, goldenrod, and aster take over then, fattening up bees for the winter months of hibernation.

Other plants to consider are snakeroot/bugbane, long-headed windflower, red columbine, many milkweed species, yellow wild indigo, pink cordydalis, northern crane's bill and other geraniums,  purple-headed sneezeweed, sunflowers, lobelia, lupine, evening primrose, golden groundsel, and our state flower, the violet.  Most of these are Rhody Natives, full-sun, and drought tolerant, and all are perennial, so they will be cost-effective in not needing to be replaced each year, not require much water once established, and be disease-resistant due to their natural adaptation to our area.  Fine-tune your own list here to select for color, height, etc.

Get a FREE assessment on how pollinator-friendly your yard is by signing up with and entering data about your site.  I scored 186/210 with recommendations to include native bunch grasses and clean out my bee nesting block.  Join their challenge as a Citizen Scientist by growing lemon queen sunflowers and tracking your visitors.

Here's a great place to get untreated seeds to grow pollinator favorites here.

Check out the April/May 2016 articles at the National Wildlife' Federation's site.
URI's Garden Resource site.
Build a Bee Condo

Coming soon: Build a Bug Condo and Creating Habitats Along Highways.

No comments:

Post a Comment