GardenSMART :: 5 Ways You Can Offset Declining Bee Populations With Your Garden
5 Ways You Can Offset Declining Bee Populations With Your Garden
By Bianca Barr Tunno, AccuWeather
Photographs courtesy of AccuWeather
As you plan your spring garden, consider adding pollinator-friendly trees and plants to provide food and habitat for bee populations that are in decline across the country and worldwide.
According to Connie Schmotzer, consumer horticulture educator for Penn State Extension, many bee species have been negatively affected by habitat loss, change in climate, disease and pesticides over the past several years. However, humans can help rebuild bee communities with simple changes to their landscapes, she says.
"You need to have a succession of blooms from spring to late fall because different pollinators fly at different times," Schmotzer says. "If every household on a street did this, bees and other pollinators would have something to go to."
Schmotzer tells AccuWeather there's a close relationship between plants and their pollinators. She says diversity in your garden will bring in a variety of bees, butterflies, moths and beetles. That, in turn, will provide pollination that will protect our food supply.
These plants all include species that are native to North America, and will attract pollinators and other beneficial insects to your garden:
Violets (Viola spp.) and Clover (Trifolium spp.)
When the flowers go away, the pollinators have trouble, Schmotzer says. Homeowners have replaced wild plants with green, monoculture lawns that have no value for bees. If you do have a lawn, allow violets or clover to exist, rather than killing everything that comes up that's not grass.
Milkweed (Asclepias spp.)
There are many native milkweed species across the United States, which provide nectar for butterflies (monarch butterflies in particular), bees and other pollinators, according to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. Milkweeds flower in a variety of colors (red, orange, yellow, green, pink, purple and white) between late spring and late summer.
Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)
Goldenrod blooms in late summer and is commonly mistaken for ragweed as an allergy offender. However, according to the Pollinator Partnership, goldenrod pollen does not cause hay fever in humans. It's a perennial that grows in clusters of yellow flowers. Pollinators absolutely love it. Goldenrod happens to be edible and can also be made into tea.
Aster (Aster spp.)
Asters can be red, pink, purple or white. They need a lot of water and can spread rapidly so be prepared to divide them regularly. Grow them in full sun or light shade and expect blooms in late summer or autumn, the time when pollinators need sustenance the most.
Maple Trees (Acer spp.)
Schmotzer says maples are some of the earliest sources of nectar and pollen for bees. They generally flower between March and June. With thousands of blooms in one location, maple trees attract pollinators with abundance and ease of access. Trees also provide nesting opportunities for bees, according to the Pollinator Partnership.
Schmotzer recommends planting in groups of three or more – close together and in layers of short, medium and tall plants. She also suggests finding local plants that are native to your region and to avoid plants that are invasive.