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Bees- 80% of flowering plants are pollinated by bees. 75% of fruits, nuts, and vegetables grown in North America need bees to produce food. There are over 20,000 kinds of bees on Earth! 730 are known species in Canada, with a total of 4000 in North America (and new species are being found every year). Bees are classified into two kingdoms- solitary and social. Below are some commonly-found bees in Canada:
♥ Honey Bees - the most well-known bees. Honey bees are not native to Canada- they were brought to Turtle Island by European Settlers
♥ Mason Bees - The unsung heroes of the bee world! Gentle and non-territorial mason bees are very proficient pollinators. They are less picky about temperatures and sunlight. 99% of flowers landed on by mason bees get pollinated. Mason bees can hit up 2.000 flowers per day, while honey bees on average visit about 15. One mason bee is equivalent to 60 honey bees in pollinating cherries. Over 5 days, European mason bees spent 33+ hours foraging, while honey bees spent about 15
♥ Leafcutter Bees
♥ Carpenter Bees
♥ Mining Bees
♥ Digger Bees
♥ Bumble Bees
*Coming Soon* Other Pollinators- Moths, ladybugs, Beetles, Birds, Butterflies, Bats, Hummingbirds, Hoverflies, Flies, Wasps, Hornets
A hoverfly visiting a strawflower
What makes a good pollinator plant? A good pollinator plant should have some or all of the following qualities:
Anise Hyssop - This perennial is a top bee plant. Nectar sugar concentration exceeds 40%! Blooms mid to late season. Attracts honeybees, bumblebees, solitary bees, digger bees, leafcutter bees, masked bees, mining bees, parasitic wasps, and syrphid flies. Anise Hyssop is native to BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, & Quebec. Makes a great candidate for native wildflower & meadow remediation projects.
Basil - Attracts bumblebees, honeybees, solitary bees, butterflies. Plant basil beside tomatoes and peppers
Bee Balm - Wild Bergamont (Monarda fistulosa) attracts humming birds, hawk moths, solitary bees, honey bees, and bumble bees such as green sweat bees, leafcutters, and wool carder bees.
Borage - Another top honey making plant. Also called Bee Butter. A borage flower replenishes it's nectar every 2 minutes! This means that pollinators can visit blooms for that sticky and rich sweet stuff continiously- providing a constant food source over a long season. Borage is said to produce 200 lbs of honey per acre per colony. Borage is a garden must have!
Buckwheat - A powerful companion plant. Attracts bumblebees, honeybees, solitary bees, assassin bugs, damsel bugs, ladybugs, pirate bugs, parasitic wasps, spiders, soldier beetles, tachnid flies. Said to make delicious honey when honey bees forage buckwheat flowers
Calendula - One of our favorite flowers to grow! Attracts bumblebees, honeybees, solitary bees, cuckoo bees, metallic green bees, leaf cutter bees, mason bees, carpenter bees, sweat bees, wool carder bees, ladybugs, parasitic wasps. Blooms from early summer to first frost. Deadhead for continuous flowers. Use dried flowers to make salves. Plant by asparagus and tomatoes. Repels some soil nematodes
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) - Mid to late-season blooms. Doesn't just attract the neighborhood cats, but will also attract bumblebees, honeybees, solitary bees, digger bees, leafcutter bees, sweat bees, parasitic wasps, soldier bugs, and tachnid flies. Repels aphids, fleas, beetles, squash bugs, and weevils. Produces 130 lbs of honey per acre per colony
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) - Early spring blooms with a second flush in late summer/fall. Attracts bumblebees, solitary bees, honeybees. 40-80 lbs of honey per acre per colony
Coriander (Cilantro) - Another great plant for honey bees. Umbrelle-style flowers also attract mining bees, sweat bees, and butterflies. Plants are quick to grow from seed and flower mid-summer. 200-500 lbs of honey per acre per colony
Dandelions - Important early-season nectar source for honey bees. No-Mow May allows dandelions to bloom and feed bees during brood rearing. Nectar sugar concentration of 74%. 100-200 lbs of honey per acre per colony
Fireweed - Nectar sugar concentration of 35%, making this an awesome honeybee plant. It is said that a colony of bees foraging from fireweed blooms produce 50-125 lbs of honey per acre per colony
Goldenrod - An important late-season food source for pollinators. Goldenrod is native to Canada and grows from West to East coast. Bumblebees, honey bees, and solitary bees like this golden flower
Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) - Hollyhocks have massive amounts of large-grained pollen in late summer. Nectar sugar concentration of 34%. Attracts honey bees and bumble bees
Honeywort (Cerinthe major) - Bumblebees love this flower so much that they will partake in nectar robbing to get to the source
Lavender - Bumblebees love lavender. Also attracts honey bees and solitary bees
Liatris - Attracts bumble bees. and solitary bees such as leafcutter bees and carpenter bees. Monarch butterflies also like this spiked flower.
Moldavian Dragonhead (Dracocephalum moldavica) - Of the mint family. Attracts honey bees, bumble bees, and solitary bees. Nectar sugar concentration of 20-30%. 180-445 lbs of honey per acre per colony
Phacelia - Also known as Bee's Friend.
Scarlet Runner Bean
Strawflowers - Strawflowers are always a very popular hang-out spot for pollinators. We make sure we plant strawflowers everywhere as they really do attract a wide range of insects. Blooms from early summer to first frost.
Sunflowers - Sunflowers act like a beacon, attracting flying pollinators into your yard.
Common Wild Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) - Bumble bees, Honey bees, Solitary bees, including mining bees, and sweat bees. Carder bees use the tiny hairs along the flower stems. Yarrow is native all throughout Canada & USA. An essential foraging flower for short-tongued bees.
"Pollen is the magic dust that makes everything possible" - Rhonda Fleming Hayes
Hold off on cleaning up your garden in the early spring. 70% of bees nest in the ground. Many bees will be hiding away in your garden and a clean-up may disturb or destroy delicate, over-wintering, unhatched larvae. Some bees stow away in hollow plant stems, some tuck into nooks and crannies in your garden, and some burrow into the soil. Wait until late spring, when most bees have already emerged to do a garden clean-up. Keep roto-tilling and digging to a minimum, and leave an area in your yard undisturbed year-round to provide a home. Plastic or fabric barriers or landscaping clothes will kill buried bees, and prevent new bees from being able to nest. Provide a variety of soil types to support as much biodiversity as possible.
No neonicotinoids. Ensure that you aren't using products that contain neonicotinoids in them. Neonicotinoids are a group of insecticides widely used across North America. These insecticides are absorbed by the plant, transfered through the plant's vascular system, and can be present in the plant's nectar and pollen. When the bee visits the flower, it unknowingly comes into contact with the neonicotinoids. This is very toxic for bees- changing their behavior and even killing them. Some times commercial seeds are coated in neonicotinoids, and even that is enough to be lethal to a bee or other small insect. Neonicotinoids can stick around for months or even years after a single application. A plant that is grown from a coated seed can contaminate an untreated plant grown in the same spot the following year. There are woody plants that will test positive six years (!) after a single dose via soil drench. Europe has started to ban this class of pesticides, while Canada and USA are slower to do so. The good news is that some steps are now being taken to limit or ban some use. The bad news is that it is not enough! Ways you can help:
1. Immediately stop any personal use of neonicotinoids
2. Read more about neonicotinoids from The Xerces Society here
3. Contact your municipal government and asking for this pesticide to be banned locally
4. Contact your Provincial MLA, Federal MP or the Canadian Minister of Environment & Climate Change and ask for this pesticide to be reviewed and banned
5. Raise backyard bees! Construct a solitary bee hut or box and store larvae over the winter in your fridge to ensure survival
6. Spread the word!
No Neems. Neem oil is a popular organic pesticide, and folks are often encouraged to use neem oil as an eco-friendly option in controlling unwanted pests. Unfortunately, neem oil can be dangerous for bees and other small pollinators. Some advise is to only spray at night, when honey bees are mostly back in their hives. This doesn't account for other pollinators that may be hanging around the plant at night, such as moths. It is best to try to avoid neem oil on outside plants
Plant a diverse buffet of flowers, herbs, vegetables, fruits, and trees to provide pollinators with a lot of biodiversity to choose from. This also ensures that some nectar will be available in the early spring, while some will be ready mid-summer, and some in the fall- providing a much needed late-season food source. Some of the plants will attract short-tongued bees, some will attract the long-tongued bees. Research which plants are native to your area and go wild! Perennials are wonderful, because you won't have to replant them every year. Native pollinators will be adapted to collecting nectar from native plants
Plant groups of flowers in 3' x 3' blocks. Plant 3-5 plants per block
Set up bee hydration stations throughout your garden. Bees feed water to their larvae, use water to cool down their hives, and to thin out their honey. A DIY bee hydration station makes an easy and fun project for kids!
Lazy gardeners, rejoice! Weeds provide a great source of food for pollinators, especially in early spring. Some weeds that pollinators like are clover, dandelion, deadnettle, goldenrod, purslane, buckwheat, and yarrow
Resist the urge to cut your grass in May. Dandelions are a great source of food in the spring for bees. Even better, ditch the lawn and plant bee turf, a native wildflower meadow, or cover crops instead.
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