WHAT'S THE BUZZ IN THE GARDEN?


In many parts of the US, the Bees are beginning to emerge from hibernation. Most of our ideas about bees are based on one species, the honeybee (Apis mellifera). While honeybees are indeed a valuable beneficial insect, there are more than 20,000 species of bee. Bees come in a wide range of sizes, from the 2mm bee in Australia to a 4cm bee in Indonesia. They also come in a wide range of colors, too. The relationship between bees and flowers goes back more than 100 million years. As flowers began to flourish, the bees began to buzz.

When a bee forages, it leaves behind a chemical scent, like a sticky note, that tells other bees that the flower's pollen has already been harvested. Today the honey bee is the third most important working animal, after cows and pigs. According to research, 100 plant species provide more than 90 percent of our food. Of those plants, 71 are pollinated by bees—from strawberries to clover. Its pollination activities ensure we have a wide range of foods. However, there are several factors leading to a decline of the honeybee from a lack of beekeepers to the spraying of chemicals, like glyphosate. However, wild bees are rarely included in the decline, it creates a mixed message and incomplete picture. We are losing our wild bee species as well.

In general, pollinator decline is attributed primarily to loss of habitat, use of pesticides, and the Varroa mite (in the case of bees). Habitat loss is due not only to the conversion of prairie and meadow to cropland, but also to the use of herbicides that eradicate wildflowers in the landscape, including milkweed and chicory. These "weeds" provided food and habitat for bees and butterflies and are now being eradicated by broadcast spraying. Neonicotinoids (a pesticide) are applied as a coating to seeds, resulting in pollinators being exposed to the dust and residue in nectar and pollen. These kill not only pests, but beneficial insects as well. Neonicotinoids are highly soluble in water, so the potential for this pesticide to spread off-site is really high.

Mason Bees

One of our spring pollinators is the Mason Bee. These solitary bees are easy to raise