I just love this time of year. The yard is ’scaped, the green is vibrant, everything is blooming, the garden is planted, and the vegetables are ripening. Much of this wondrous development growth is possible only because of the insects that pollinate the flowers.
Bees, Bees, Bees
One of the most important pollinators is the mighty bee. Honeybees have been receiving increased attention because of their declining population. In the 1940s, beekeepers managed about 5 million honeybee colonies in the United States. That figure has decreased to a current 2.66 million according to USDA statistics. The alarming news is that most of the decline has come within the last decade. Since 2006, the average yearly loss is about 30 percent. Researchers have proposed various theories for Colony Collapse Disorder, a condition in which most or all the mature, adult bees go missing from the hive, leaving only the live queen and immature bees. Unfortunately, scientists have been unable to identify a single, main culprit. Four clear causes are use of pesticides, loss of habitat, climate change, and disease. Every gardener, however, can help support the bee population, and pollinators in general, with a few simple steps.
Feed the Bees
Pollinators will hang around only if they know food will always be available. They will go elsewhere if they are hungry. It is vital, therefore, that blooms are offered year-round. The spring and summer do not generally present a problem. Most plants bloom at this time, and it does not cost much to plant some wildflower seeds in a patio pot or strew them in a flowerbed. The fall and winter present more of a challenge. Trees, such as the red maple and redbud, as well as shrubs like camilla, goldenrod, witchhazel, and winter jasmine, are better candidates for the cold weather. If you want plants, Kaffir lilies and hellebores (aka Christmas roses) will bloom in the winter. Another suggestion you may be less inclined to follow is to let your grass grow a little taller and accept the clover that blooms in it. It is catnip for bees. The added benefit to pollinator-friendly environment is the other insects you will attract, such as butterflies and moths. Protect the pollinators by not using pesticides; the use of pesticides has been repeatedly linked to the death of pollinators. If you want to deter pests, brew up some worm-casting tea and spray your plants with that nutritious liquid gold.
Many websites offer more information and ideas: