Protect Flowering Plants and Nest Sites

Once you know where bees are foraging and living, do what you can to protect these resources from disturbance and pesticides. We recommend a three step approach to protecting habitat for native pollinators: allow plants to flower, protect nest sites, and exercise care with insecticides.

Allow Plants to Flower

Bees eat only pollen and nectar. In gathering these resources, they move pollen from one flower to another, and thus pollinate your crops. Bees rely on an abundance and variety of flowers, and need blooming plants throughout the growing season. Native plant species are often particularly good for pollinators. Many hybridized varieties of flowers have been bred for showy flowers at the expense of nectar and pollen, and often lack the food bees need.

Allowing crops such as lettuce, kale, basil, and broccoli to bolt will supply bees with nectar and pollen. Natural areas, cover crops, field and road edges and gardens often have the floral resources needed by native bees. Allowing flowers to bloom in these areas, especially during times when crops are not blooming, will provide essential food for nearby pollinators.

Habitat along stream edges often contains a diversity of plants. Willows, in particular, will nourish bumble bee queens in the spring so that large numbers of workers are available when crops begin to bloom.

Protect nest sites
Many of our best crop pollinators live underground for most of the year, sometimes at the base of the very plants they pollinate. To protect them, minimize tillage by only turning over soil where you need to. Other wood-nesting native bee species live beetle tunnels or other holes in old snags. Keeping dead trees standing provides shelter for these species.
Exercise Care with Insecticides
If you must use insecticides, choose targeted ingredients (for example, Btk for pests such as leaf rollers) and the least harmful formulations (granules or solutions). Spray on dry evenings – and do so soon after dark, when bees are not active. Keep in mind that even when crops are not in bloom, some of your best pollinators are visiting nearby flowers, where they may be killed by drifting chemicals. Oregon State University, Washington State University and the University of Idaho Extension have developed a comprehensive guide, available as a pdf: How to Reduce Bee Poisoning from Pesticides.
The Xerces Society • 628 NE Broadway Ste 200, Portland OR 97232 USA • tel 855.232.6639 • fax 503.233.6794 • info@xerces.org
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