Lee Valley Tools    Gardening Newsletter
   Vol. 8, Issue 4
   April 2013
   Helping Native Pollinators
Efficient pollinatorsEfficient pollinators
Native bees are efficient pollinators that fly even in cold and wet conditions.
Many of us have heard of colony collapse disorder, one of the main reasons behind the decline in European honey bee (Apis mellifera) populations in both North America and Europe. While much attention has been given to this phenomenon, comparatively little has been paid to decreasing native North American bee populations, even though they are also very efficient pollinators. Furthermore, many will fly, and thereby pollinate, in conditions too wet or cold for honey bees. There are many factors behind their decline (disease, parasites), but two of the main ones are loss of habitat and a lack of nectar and pollen sources. It's easy for a home gardener to help our little bee friends by providing an uninterrupted supply of food in the form of native flowering plants, trees and shrubs, and an undisturbed nesting habitat.

Food Supply
As part of a shift towards gardening practices that are more environmentally friendly, many gardeners select native flowering plants. These tend to be easier to care for, more drought-tolerant and less prone to infestation by insect pests such as aphids. In addition, most provide food, shelter and nesting habitats for bees. A varied, continuous succession of blooms from early spring to late fall provides abundant nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinators. Of course, continuous bloom is what most gardeners dream of, which makes it all the better. One can easily realize how satisfying and simple this type of gardening can be.

Listed below is a variety of native flowering plants, shrubs and trees. Keep in mind that many hybrids from nurseries are similar but not exactly the same as their wild ancestors. The most important thing is to choose tough, reliable bloomers that provide ample pollen and nectar. Many double-flowered hybrids have beautiful blooms but much less pollen and nectar. My suggestion is to stick with the single-flower types that are as close to the native plant as possible.
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