Thursday, June 22, 2017

Summer gardening with native bees in mind 

Wednesday, June 21st marked the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year and the start of the summer gardening season. The warm weather and long summer days make it an ideal time to create a better environment for pollinators.  Native bees in particular are important in crop pollination so providing food, water and shelter will help sustain the native bee population and improve your garden yields. Native bees are gentle, solitary and most don't require a hive. Many nest in the ground, others in twigs and stems. Knowing their habits will help you create a better environment for them. Food for bees means nectar and pollen. The ideal plants for bees will produce flowers with high nectar and pollen content. Nectar feeds the adult bee and pollen is harvested to feed their young. Using a combination of perennials, annuals, herbs and bulbs helps ensure a continuous supply.
It's important to plant in clusters, to reduce  the distance pollinators have to fly in order to forage.
Bees need water. A simple way to do this is to start with a shallow bowl or saucer, add pebbles and place the saucer full of water on the ground near where you see pollinators active.
To accommodate ground-nesting bees, l
eave some open space in the garden, free of mulch and weed barrier. Thick mulch and weed barrier make it impossible for the bees to reach the ground. Eliminating mulch and weed barrier will encourage natives to nest.
The other place native bees nest is in wood. You can provide nesting sites by drilling out a block of wood yourself or purchase a bee house and hang it on the fence.
Bees will build their nests in the tubes using materials they find in the garden, including
small pieces of leaves and mud.
When you discover what looks like
bites out of leaves, you've got leafcutter bees building a nest somewhere nearby. Their activity doesn't harm healthy plants, so  it's best not to take action against them. Finally, practice good watering habits. Don't water overhead during the day. It discourages pollinators and wastes water. Water at night or very early in the morning and water at the base of the plants. Native bees are very efficient at what they do.
Both males and females pollinate flowers and vegetables. They are very fast and don't travel very
far, which means they are able to visit and pollinate many plants in your garden. Pay attention to the pollinators as you take your daily walk through your garden. The more you do to attract native bees to your garden, the greater your harvest will be. 

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