By Joe Wheelock, HTA Program Coordinator
Feeling cooped up? Need to get outside and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine? Now is a great time to take some simple actions around your home to help protect and conserve bees! Everyone knows the European Honey Bee, but did you know there are about 4,000 species of NATIVE bees in the U.S.? Like Us, these native bees need both food and a place to live. Here are some simple things you can do in your garden to help.
1) Add native plants to your landscaping. We have seen quite a few people out doing yard work – with all the warm spring weather its a great time to start working on your garden. Providing wildflower rich habitat is the single best action you can take to support pollinators! Native, locally adapted,species are the best sources of pollen and nectar for our native bees and incorporating native plants into your home garden helps promote local biological diversity. There are several great guides available, but we like this from the Xerces Society.
2) Provide nesting habitat. Native solitary bees are a very diverse group of insects! Unlike Honey bees and bumblebees that form colonies, solitary bees build their nests either in the ground or in hollow plant stems. You can easily make your own solitary bee nest in many different ways. Simply, an artificial bee nest is a group of hollow straws placed in a protective container. Make sure you take care of the structures and replace the tubes/stems every 2 years so parasites don’t build up. See this from Iowa State Extension for a step-by-step guide and get creative with the decoration!
3) Observe! You probably have seen many native bees with out realizing it – they can be bright metallic colors and come in all shapes and sizes. See something but not sure what it is? Check out this guide to common groups of bees in MO.
Don’t forget to snap a picture and tag us so we can see pollinator conservation in action!
Photos by Tom Schroeder