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Old 02-05-2010, 05:08 PM   #1
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Flowerblue Fun Facts about Native Bees

How to encourage Native bees to your garden:

1. Native plants. Some bees are oligolectic, they collect pollen from a limited range of plants, a single genus or family. Some bees are so selective they only collect pollen from one species of plant.

2. Leave your garden un-mulched. 70% of native bees nest in the ground. Heavy mulching denies females access to their nesting substrate.

3. Avoid pesticides.

Mining bee,Andrena, are oligolectic. They forage on flowers of Phacelia and Gilia, the pollen appears blue on the bees legs.
Mason bee, Osmia, very fast flying. 250 mason bees are needed to pollinate an acre of apple trees. Its takes 20,000 honeybees to do the same job.

More later.
Info gleaned from the 2010 North American Native Bee Calendar.
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Old 02-05-2010, 06:07 PM   #2
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Milkweed,

Cool post. Interesting that it takes so many fewer native bees than non-native honeybees to pollinate apple trees.

I can't remember when I read that honeybees are not native to America, but it can't be more than 5-10 years ago. I'm assuming most of the general public is not aware of that. All the talk of our dependancy on honeybees for pollinating our crops, I always assumed other, native bees would take over. ...not that I don't LOVE honey, I do!
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Old 02-05-2010, 06:50 PM   #3
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Native bees do "take over" as you put it but only if they're nesting nearby. An issue with native bees is they need special nesting conditions.

Digger bees (Mining bees) need certain types of soil usually on a hill side preferably facing south for example. Tilling destroys this or disturbes last year's nests, meaning almost none of the brood survives.

Mason bees need holes or tubes with only one entrance. In nature they use the tunnels left over from beetle grubs that dug around in trees. Later in the year Leaf Cutter bees do the same. Basically the same thing as mason bees but they use cut up leaves instead of mud to seal off brood chambers.

Bumblebees as odd as it sounds prefer nesting in former rodent burrows. Rodents that nest underground usually collect lots of fluffy cotton like material. Out in the field Rodents weave nests as fluffy balls in the uncut grasses.

These are all excellent pollinators because they focus way more on Pollen than Nectar. Pollen is fed right to the brood while Nectar keeps the bee energized. Native bees tend to start with the nearest food source (with emphases on pollen). Honey Bees and to an extent Bumblebees store the Nectar. Honey Bees are a social bee that store nectar (which becomes honey) so their hives of 20,000+ bees don't starve to death over the winter. Honey Bees will also forage upwards of 6 miles away from their nest.
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Old 02-05-2010, 08:05 PM   #4
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I didn't know honeybees weren't natives until 2-3 years ago. I was reading a book about Native Americans and they called honeybees the white mans' fly.
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Old 02-06-2010, 09:26 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by milkweed View Post
How to encourage Native bees to your garden:

2. Leave your garden un-mulched. 70% of native bees nest in the ground. Heavy mulching denies females access to their nesting substrate.
I found your post to be of great interest milkweed , thanks for providing it . I find that as a gardener though it leaves one in a bit of a quandry . In the west (particularly) and most other locations mulch is desireable for water retention . So a good thing in one case is a bad thing in another direction as in the case of native bees if in reads that in your post .

Any suggestions as to how we work around that/this dilema ? It could be as simple as setting aside SOME areas to be left undisturbed, working out a comprimise in that manner .
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Old 02-06-2010, 10:46 AM   #6
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MrILoveTheAnts,

Thanks for the post. It is very informative. I didn't realize that the native bees were focused on the pollen more. Only recently did I learn that bumblebee queens emerge from underground burrows to begin anew in the spring. Very interesting about the 'one entrance thing" and how interconnected they are with other organisms--there is another *specific* example of the need for biodiversity!
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Old 02-06-2010, 10:51 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by milkweed View Post
I was reading a book about Native Americans and they called honeybees the white mans' fly.
Cool! I had not heard that one...I do remember hearing that plantain (the lawn weed, not the bannana) was referred to as "white man's foot" because it appeared anywhere the white man walked.

I love this site...I'm learning new things!
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Old 02-06-2010, 09:21 PM   #8
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milkweed, I have been wondering about that no mulch idea. I know that many native bees live in the ground,but also have read that many inhabit forested areas,which should have considerable organic debris on the ground.
Maybe it means deep shredded wood mulch? Is that too compacted or heavy?

Bumble bees use already existing holes like rodent leave behind so they would do fine in prairies but what about other native bees in prairies? Would they be more likely to use holes in woody plants or soft centered stems than dig in the ground?

Your information has sparked my curiosity.

Alternative Pollinators: Native Bees
Quote:
Alternative Pollinators: Native Bees
Often, growers don't realize the amount of pollination that is performed by native bees,
and signs of inadequate pollination are often misinterpreted as weather problems or disease.
Dr. Suzanne Batra of the USDA's Bee Research Lab in Beltsville, Maryland,
conducted a three-year study to discover the natural mix of bees in a West Virginia forest.
(3) She found that, of the 1700 bees trapped in the first year of the study, only 34 were honeybees.
This means that pollen bees were performing almost all pollination.
Dr. Batra notes that Europeans have made significant advances in the field of bee study.
There, native bees have been evaluated and encouraged in much the same way that
hummingbirds and butterflies are accommodated in U.S. gardens.

http://www.physorg.com/news182710244.html

Quote:
Researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences are in the midst of several studies
involving wild bees. Their aim is to develop a better understanding of the ecosystem services
these wild pollinators provide and the importance of native plants to wild bees.
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Old 02-06-2010, 11:36 PM   #9
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bumblebee

Beyond the imported honey bees, there are thousands of species of native bees that play a major role in pollinating our plants. For most gardeners, native bees are probably the primary pollinator. From apples to zucchinis we rely on them to produce the fruits and vegetables that we want.

There are a lot of simple steps that we as gardeners can take to increase our populations of native bees. The USDA National Agroforestry Center has published 2 articles on supporting native bee populations:
Quote:
Native bees, however, contribute significantly to crop pollination and, on farms with sufficient natural habitat located nearby, may even provide all of the required pollination for some crops. In order to support the native bee community, it is essential to provide nesting sites in addition to floral resources. Unfortunately, intensively managed farm landscapes often lack the untilled ground, tree snags, plants, and small cavities that native bees require for nest construction. Agroforestry practices can provide essential nesting habitat for bees, our most important crop pollinators.
http://www.unl.edu/nac/agroforestrynotes/an34g08.pdf

Quote:
In order to support the native bee community, a wealth of flowers is necessary. Unfortunately, heavily managed farm landscapes often lack the diversity and abundance of flowers that native bees require. By providing abundant and diverse pollen and nectar sources, a diverse community of native bee species will increase, adjacent crops may yield more, growers could rely less on imported European honey bees, and farm biodiversity and other wildlife species will benefit.
http://www.unl.edu/nac/agroforestrynotes/an33g07.pdf

A lot of these steps are relatively easy to accomplish, and both we and the native bees will benefit.
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Old 02-09-2010, 01:00 PM   #10
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I really don't know about the mulch. "Heavy mulching" does that mean a deep layer of mulch or large bark/wood chips?
A compromise would be leaving desirable nesting sites unmulched and mulching the rest of the garden.
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