Three years ago, the United States Senate unanimously designated National Pollinator Week. This year it falls from June 21 to 27. Pollination is vitally important for many domesticated and wild plants. By far the most important pollinators are bees and Utah is home to 900 species. Bees pollinate food crops such as apples, cherries, apricots, squashes, raspberries and cucumbers. Bees are also essential to pollinate most wildflowers in our native plant communities.
Happily, few of our native bees have much venom or any inclination to sting; in part because they are solitary nesters. In contrast, honeybees and bumblebees are social and in defense of home will deliver memorable stings.
All bees visit flowers to sup nectar for energy. Females also collect protein-rich pollen to feed their offspring. Grain and hay fields, pavement and buildings have all displaced native plant communities, but our flower gardens can become valuable cafeterias for local bee populations. Because bees find their favorite flowers by their color or scent, a bee garden can also appeal to people.
Different bees prefer different kinds of flowers. Many bees are attracted to members of the pea family, such as vetches, clovers and locoweeds. Bees appreciate sunflowers and their kin as well as lavender and many other herbs. On the other hand, some plants have been so altered by plant breeders that they no longer feed bees. Examples include doubled flowers like marigolds, flowers with ruffles like petunias and some other common bedding plants.
Please consider our important pollinators when you are choosing what to plant in your garden. You will be rewarded by increased fruit and vegetable yields while surrounded by beautiful blooms.
This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.
Photos: Courtesy and Copyright 2010 Jim Cane and Linda Kervin
Text: Jim Cane and Linda Kervin, Bridgerland Audubon Society
Crop domestication facilitated rapid geographical expansion of a specialist pollinator, the squash bee Peponapis pruinosa, Margarita M. López-Uribe, James H. Cane, Robert L. Minckley, Bryan N. Danforth
Proc. R. Soc. B 2016 283 20160443; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.0443. Published 22 June 2016http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/283/1833/20160443.abstract