Monday, May 31, 2010

The importance of native pollinators

The Midway community gardens are hatching a plan for the August event called the Parade of Community gardens on 8/21/2010. Its too soon to let you know about all the fun details, but it will involve six Midway community garden sites, and will give visitors a peek at pollinators. Even in our urban area, pollinators are vital. In this photo, my Leadplant is being visited by bees. at the Midway Greenspirit garden, the beehive there are increasing yields of tomatoes, peppers, blueberries, strawberries, , raspberries, apples, melons, sunflowers, pumpkins, plums, and squash both in the garden and for miles around. Native pollinators can be even more efficient at the job, such as bumblebees increasing yields even more. The Xerces Society is an organization looking into the importance of invertebrates. Below is some quality information from Xerces on how to encourage native pollinators which were developed for roadsides. While a small residential urban yard may need to be selective from this list of practices, most are applicable for our cities too. I see it in my own yard and in my community gardens regularly. Xerces research show that using native plants in a landscape can double the number of bee counts and increase the types of bees found there by 35%. So you want to get the most out of your food production gardens? Plant for the bees too!

From Xerces:

Eighty-seven of the world’s 124 most commonly cultivated crops are insect/animal pollinated. Between 60 to 80% of the world’s 250,000 flowering plants depend on animals for pollination.
In the United States, the National Research Council (2007) reported noteworthy losses of both managed and wild pollinators. Habitat loss, pesticide use, diseases, parasites, and the spread of invasive species are the major causes of pollinator decline. Threats to pollinator communities affect not only pollinators themselves but also natural ecosystems and agricultural productivity.

Key design factors & practices to enhance flower diversity for bee habitat around farms, gardens or roadsides include:

Planting choices
1) Use native wildflowers and grasses, with high densities of flowers.
2) Plant a minimum of 3 blooming plant species during each season.
3) Aim for season-long blooming plants, early and late season blooming plants are especially important.
4) Plant a range of wildflowers of varying colors and shapes. Bees mainly visit blue, white, yellow, and purple flowers.
5) Plant flowers in single species clumps for best results.

Providing Nest Sites
6) Warm season, clump-forming grasses provide bumble bee nest sites.
7) Have a mix of forbs and shrubs.
8) Don’t mow or hay entire grassy meadows or roadsides, leave some for pollinators.
9) Conserve habitat for rabbit burrows and groundhog burrows for bee nesting sites.
10) Reduce tillage and avoid plastic sheeting for ground nesting bees.

Reducing the Impact of Mowing and Spraying
11) Intensive mowing or grazing impacts abundance of bees.
12) Avoid or minimize the use of insecticides.

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