Native Pollinators: How to Protect and Enhance Habitat for Native Bees

Mace Vaughan and Scott Hoffman Black, Native Plants Journal
Summer 2008

The success of all restoration efforts—and indeed, of life as we know it— depends on a healthy and diverse population of native pollinators. Pollinators are critical for seed production and the perpetuation of native plants (and our food crops). Bees are our most important pollinators in North America. Nursery managers, seed producers, and field restorationists can protect and enhance habitat for native bees. Native bees have 3 basic habitat needs. 1) Bees need a constant supply of food—a diversity of plants with overlapping blooming times so flowers are available throughout the growing season. 2) Bees need places to nest. Most native bees are solitary, and none build wax or paper structures like we associate with honey bees or wasps. Most bees nest in small warrens they construct underground, or in narrow tunnels often left behind by beetle larvae in dead trees. Bumble bees require small cavities, either in tree boles, underground (often in old rodent burrows), or under clumps of fallen grass, in which to raise their young, as well as undisturbed duff in which queens burrow and hibernate through the winter. 3) Bees need protection from most pesticides. Insecticides are primarily broad spectrum and are therefore deadly to bees. Indiscriminate herbicide use can remove many of the flowers that bees need for food. Foster bees by observing, protecting, and enhancing nesting sites and year-round sources of pollen and nectar.

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