Planting for pollinators: Things you must do to protect the ecosystem

June 17, 2019

The bee population in the US has definitely taken a hit. There are many theories about why the drastic decline of the honey bee has taken place.

Colony collapse disorder became big news when apiarists, (bee keepers), would check their hives and find the majority of the hive gone, or, in a collapsed hive; all of the bees gone.

Then, there are new parasites that bees must deal with as well, one being the Varroa mite, and even new diseases that they are trying to fight off, ie: the American Foulbrood and the Deformed Wing Virus. This latter disease is caused by the Varroa mite.

One factor is the fact that USA has become a nation of monoculture agriculture in the fact that we plant high yielding fields of corn, soybeans, and wheat; which look pretty and are great producers of human nutrients but which are a terrible limit to the bees diets.

At one time most farms were a combination of livestock and farm crops, with livestock were fencerows. These fencerows were inclusive of bushes, trees, flowers and clovers growing in unison. All of which offer a much needed respite to pollinating bees.

With the decimation of the need for livestock on most farms, there was less need for fencerows; and thusly the bees of America have lost a valuable mainstay to their existence.

Also, the widespread use of pesticides has helped in decimating the bee population in America. Large tracts of land being poisoned to insects is as murderous to the bees as it is to the boll weevil. Another problem is the fact that honey bees were not inherent to North America, at least not the type that produce honey. They were imported from Europe.

And so the question is: How do we go about planting flowers that supply pollen for the bees, trying to stay nature, or at least not plant a species that will become invasive like the Honeysuckle has?

There is a colloquial expression called KISS. It's an acronym that stands for Keep It Simple... Stupid. There are many websites that give information on purchasing plants that provide bees with pollen. You can also buy a mix at the local lawn and garden store. You want to buy a mix of early spring blooms for feeding them when they first come out of the hives. Then buy late summer blooms for when many of the annual flowers have decimated for the year. It is even a good idea to plant a small bee garden no matter where you live.

It's true that your yard isn't likely to look as good as your neighbor's pristine, close cropped mini golf course, but you will be providing food for your little honey-making friends.

Some good choices are Crocus bulbs, lavender, phlox, zinnias, and marigold, as well as black-eyed susans, echinacea, and sunflowers. You should be careful of sunflowers though, not all are pollinators. A good choice is Lemon Queen. Also plant Bee Balm a natural attractant of bees. Make sure to peruse the seed bags at your local lawn and garden, most will have a bee or butterfly emblem if they are pollinator friendly.

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