Save the Pollinators

What can you do at home to help support healthy pollinator populations? Here are a few basic suggestions for creating pollinator-friendly gardens:

Provide food

Provide homes

Provide shelter

Bringing Bee Diversity to your Coffee Table

This has truly been an exciting month for those of us who love bees of all kinds. The Obama tweet about the White House plan to promote pollinator health, the release of a U.K. native bee documentary, and of course, let’s not forget that next week is National Pollinator Week!

And the cherry on top (did you know that many types of cherries require pollination to produce fruit?): you can now pre-order a hardcover book featuring the lovely photographs of Sam Droege for your own coffee table (coffee, of course, being another crop that benefits from bee pollination).

Cover of Bees: An Up-Close Look of Pollinators Around the World by Sam Droege and Laurence Packer

Cover of Bees: An Up-Close Look of Pollinators Around the World by Sam Droege and Laurence Packer

It’s an easy, cheap, and colorful way to bring bees into your home. You can pre-order yours today on Amazon for only $17, and they are estimated to ship out July 1st.

New Documentary: The Solitary Bees

A still of mating mason bees from the documentary The Solitary Bees

A still of mating mason bees from the documentary The Solitary Bees

Team Candiru has just released a new documentary online, a poetic and beautifully shot masterpiece about The Solitary Bees. It’s a short movie, only around 17 minutes, free to view online, and well worth the time.

It features bees found in the United Kingdom, but at least one of them (Anthidium manicatum, the woolcarder bee) has made its way here to the States as well. In addition to capturing amazing footage of solitary bees, it also includes a lot of great information.

Meet the Pollinators: Pollinator Syndromes

One thing I love about walking around a garden is guessing what kind of animal each type of plant relies on for pollination. This is because plants that rely on certain types of animal pollinators are often adapted to be particularly attractive to that type of animal, a phenomenon known as “pollinator syndromes.” The following slides are from a poster I made showcasing pollinator syndromes. Once you read these, you can be an expert, too!

Beetles

Flies

Butterflies

Birds

Bats

Wasps

Bees

Meet the Pollinators

Pollinate Your Plate Part 2: A Filling Lunch

Lunch food with and without ingredients that benefit from animal pollination.

Lunch food with and without ingredients that benefit from animal pollination.

What do cheese, butter, milk, and ice cream all have in common?

If you answered that they all require bee pollination for mass production, you are correct!

Although it may not be intuitive, the dairy industry relies on the production of alfalfa to feed dairy cows. This alfalfa is grown from seed, which can only be produced via bee pollination of alfalfa flowers:

alfalfa production

Due to alfalfa’s unique pollination mechanism, honey bees are not the best pollinators of alfalfa. For this reason, several other species of bees are managed commercially for alfalfa pollination, such as the alfalfa leafcutter bee (Megachile rotundata) and the alkali bee (Nomia melanderi). These bees are particularly dear to me since I study alfalfa pollination, so I am sure I will be writing more about them in the future.

a female alkali bee and the entrance to her nest Photo by James Cane of the USDA-ARS.

a female alkali bee and the entrance to her nest Photo by James Cane of the USDA-ARS.

Putting Peppers and Tomatoes on your Pizza: The Humble Bumblebee

The interior of a commercial bumblebee colony.

The interior of a commercial bumblebee colony.

As I mentioned in a previous post, tomatoes and peppers also have unique requirements for pollination. When grown outside, the wind can naturally shake loose some pollen from the tomato or pepper flower, but in the greenhouse where there is no wind, domesticated bumble bee colonies are used to pollinate these crops.

An Osmia a day keeps the doctor away:
applesWhen we talked about breakfast, I mentioned that a solitary bee called the Blue Orchard Bee can help pollinate almonds. Orchard bees, as their name suggests, also visit a variety of fruit trees, such as apples. Even though we don’t grow apple trees from seed, in order for apple fruits to develop the flower must be cross pollinated with another apple or crabapple variety. In the Eastern U.S., some researchers are experiencing with using orchard bees to commercially pollinate apples.

Thanks for reading this week’s post! Please come back next week to learn more about how pollinators bring color to our plates.

Bring Back the Native Pollinators! We Need them More than Ever

It’s interesting to see how back the concern for native pollinators goes.

Polinizador's Blog

A long-horned bee on sunflower © Beatriz Moisset A long-horned bee on sunflower
© Beatriz Moisset

Excerpt from the USDA document prepared by the Division of Bee Culture in 1942: “The Dependence of Agriculture on the Beekeeping Industry—a Review.”

Wherever a proper balance exists between plants and pollinating insects, both flourish. Agricultural development, however, has seriously interfered with this balance. It has demanded the growing of certain plants in enormous acreages and has unwittingly destroyed native pollinating insects as well as their nesting places. As a result the burden of pollination has been increased to such an extent that wild bees are no longer adequate or dependable. . . In many places the depletion of wild pollinators is so acute that honeybees have to be brought in especially for pollination, and so in practically all agricultural areas honeybees are now the most numerous of the flower-visiting insects.

Read the full article in Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens 2014

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Bees and Barack Obama

droege bee

The bee research world has been all abuzz about a new plan released by the Obama Administration called the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. We are all still in the process of reviewing and dissecting the implications of said plan, but I was elated to see that earlier today, the President of the United States of America tweeted a photo of a solitary, ground-nesting bee!

Described in the Washington Post article as a “Hairy-footed flower bee,” (Anthophora plumipes) it was photographed in the Maryland home of the USGS’s Sam Droege.

If you have the time, read the full Washington Post article, complete with several quotes from the famous bee biologist.

How the White House plans to help the humble bee maintain its buzz