Organic Beekeeping

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Pollinator Friendly Practices

I was so impressed with this article I wanted to share part of it with you.

Printed in The Bee Line (newsletter of the Maine State Beekeepers’ Association)

By Sam(antha) Burns, UME Master Gardener, Somerset Beekeepers President

While not every homeowner is interested keeping bees, it is possible to provide the ideal conditions to encourage populations of pollinating insects and animals in our yards and gardens.

Eliminate the use of pesticides whenever possible. Insecticides kill insect pollinators directly, while herbicides reduce food and habitat diversity. If you must use a pesticide, use the least toxic product available. Read the labels carefully – many pesticides are dangerous to bees. Use the chemical as directed, and spray at night when bees and a lot of other pollinators are not active. (There are, however, moths and bats who are nocturnal pollinators.)

My note: Please try not to use ANY pesticides or herbicides!

Use native plants. These plants have adapted to your local climate and soil conditions, and the pollinators that propagate them have evolved a symbiotic relationship with them over millions of years. Native plants provide nectar, pollen and nesting habitat for the native butterflies, insects and birds that inhabit your local area.  They are also advantageous to the gardener because native plants do not require fertilizers, need less water, and help prevent erosion with their deep root systems.

Avoid hybrids and “doubled” flowers. While these showy blossoms might be attractive to the human eye, modern hybrids are typically less fragrant, and offer little pollen and nectar for pollinators.

Provide a variety of plants that bloom from early spring through late fall. By hosting a continuous bloom, you will feed the pollinators who visit your yard throughout the growing season. Offer a diversity of flower colors, shapes, and sizes, to accommodate the varying lengths of pollinator’s tongues, including night-blooming plants for nocturnal pollinators. Planting in clumps helps pollinators find (concentrated) foods and nesting sources.

My note: Bees don’t migrate during the cold months, so they need food sources through late fall.

Include plants for caterpillars. If you want colorful butterflies in and around your yard and gardens, be sure to include larval host plants for their offspring. Place them where unsightly leaf damage can be tolerated, since the caterpillars will eat them. Accept host plants that are less than ornamental, possibly even outright weeds. Invest in a butterfly guide, and plant a butterfly garden.

Build nesting habitats and offer a water source. By placing dead trees and the occasional dead limb (so long as it is not a safety hazard), you will provide essential nesting sites for native bees and other pollinators. You can aid native bees by drilling holes of varying sizes and lengths into dead trees and stumps, or by building a bee condo. Also, creating a water source for butterflies and bees is helpful. Use a shallow saucer with some sand and pebbles so the tiny insects won’t drown; mix a small bit of sea salt into the mud, as this helps attract the pollinators to the water source and provides them with valuable minerals.

Reduce lawn size and mow pollinater-consciously. Lawns are a veritable barren wasteland for pollinators in search of food and nesting habitat, but by decreasing the portion of our yards that we mow we can leave more habitat for wildlife. When you do mow, do so with pollinators in mind. In the spring, wait to mow until after the dandelion bloom, as this is the first major nectar flow for native bees and other pollinators. Also, mow late in the evening when the most pollinators are inactive.

My Note: Clover makes a GREAT lawn and provides plenty of food for pollinators.

Practice a peaceful coexistence. Get a guidebook and learn to recognize pollinators and other beneficial insects in your neighborhood. Take time to watch these creatures at work, and appreciate their beauty. Allow bees to nest innocuously in your yard and about your home; generally they will go about their lives without ever bothering you or your family, and the occasional sting is a small price to pay for the services these creatures provide.

My note: Include your whole family in the planting project. Have the kids research and pick several plants they can grow and take care of. They’ll be proud and excited to see pollinators on their flowers!

Additional Resources:

The Xerces Society

Pollinator Partnership – http://www.pollinator. org

Celebrating Wildflowers





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