The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Wild bees are the best pollinators

Pollen sacsAlthough Attracting Native Pollinators discusses many other types of pollinators, they recommend that you focus your efforts on making bees happy.  The Xerces Society argues that bees are the most important group of pollinators because:

  • Bees are hairy, which means pollen sticks to their bodies and is carried in large quantities from flower to flower.
  • Bees actively gather pollen.  Most other types of pollinators focus on nectar, which means they might never even come in contact with the flower's pollen.  For example, the long tongue of a butterfly allows the insect to feed without brushing up against the stamens of many flowers.  In contrast, since bees use pollen as a source of protein and other nutrients, the insects often end up coated in the grains.
  • Bees exhibit flower constancy.  Many bees fixate on a single species of flower at a time, visiting up to 100 individual flowers of the same type on a single trip.  In contrast, other pollinators usually hop around, starting on an aster, dropping by some goldenrod, and ending up on a dandelion.  This generalist strategy works well for the insects but means the flowers are wasting lots of pollen that will end up on another type of plant and won't do its job.

Parasitic insects like this Greater bee fly are actually a good sign because they require healthy bee populations.It's worth noting that when I say "bees" this week, I'm not really talking about honeybees.  Although large agricultural operations tend to put all their eggs in one basket and focus on the introduced honeybee, some farmers have found that providing habitat for native bees (more on that in later posts) results in better pollination efficiency than trucking in migratory honeybee hives.  In addition, scientists have discovered that adding honeybees to the mix actually decreases the populations of native pollinators, which results in problems down the line when the honeybee hives collapse or when picky plants have to do without the only pollinator species they're equiped to deal with. 

In general, our gardens and natural ecosystems fare much better when we attract as wide a variety of native pollinator species as possible.  The Xerces society posits that if we focus on helping native bees, we'll also protect the other pollinator groups --- wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, and beetles.  The result is not only pollinated plants but also control of pest insects and the production of nest sites for bees.  Stay tuned for more information on how to  make this diverse pollinator population a reality in your neck of the woods.

Get your garden off to a good start with a soil test, then learn to interpret the results in my 99 cent ebook.



This post is part of our Attracting Native Pollinators lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:





Anna Hess's books
Want more in-depth information? Browse through our books.

Or explore more posts by date or by subject.

About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.



Want to be notified when new comments are posted on this page? Click on the RSS button after you add a comment to subscribe to the comment feed, or simply check the box beside "email replies to me" while writing your comment.






profile counter myspace



Powered by Branchable Wiki Hosting.

Required disclosures:

As an Amazon Associate, I earn a few pennies every time you buy something using one of my affiliate links. Don't worry, though --- I only recommend products I thoroughly stand behind!

Also, this site has Google ads on it. Third party vendors, including Google, use cookies to serve ads based on a user's prior visits to a website. Google's use of advertising cookies enables it and its partners to serve ads to users based on their visit to various sites. You can opt out of personalized advertising by visiting this site.