How to Help Native Bee SpeciesApr 20th, 2012 | By Cecilia | Category: show tips, the show
We love honeybees; one reason we love them is in their name: honey.
We’re willing to overlook the fact that this sweet, viscous amber liquid is regurgitated flower nectar. That’s because honey is more delicious than the reality of how it’s made is disgusting.
But did you know, dear Locavores, that this disgusting food of the Gods comes from an imported species? Yeah, that’s right: honeybees aren’t from around here. They’re originally from Europe and Norther Africa, brought to this country with the first colonists in the 1600s.
So, what about native bees such as bumblebees or solitary bees? These insects are homegrown, and yet, we barely notice these hard workers that are a vital part of the native ecosystem.Where’s the “local love”?
Just because they don’t live in impressively large colonies with ten to twenty thousand members, or make honey for us to steal (let’s be real, they do not make it for us), does that mean they should be ignored?
Of course not. In fact, bumblebees and solitary bees evolved with the various native ecosystems, making them much more efficient pollinators than the European honeybee. And–if I may say–they are also more effective pollinators on crops such as tomatoes, melons, and blueberries–to name a few.
So how can we help these tiny critters? One thing we can do is get to know them. A good place to do that is at the website Bumblebees of Texas, curated by invertebrate biologist, Michael Warriner.
Another thing we can do is to create bee gardens where they can come and feast. The group Texas Bee Watchers promotes just that and offers images of bee gardens and lists of bee friendly plants to get you started.
Native bees are incredible pollinators. Two hundred solitary bees, such as Mason Bees or Leaf Cutter Bees, can do a better job pollinating an acre of orchard, for example, than a hive of ten thousand honeybees. You can encourage them to stay near your food garden and orchard (if you have one), by installing nesting boxes for them.
Jenny, from Austin, Texas, who curates the blog Rock Rose, generously shared a photo of a charming and rustic bee nesting house that she made for her garden.
Michael Warriner shared a photo of Austin High School students (and twin sisters) Markely and Louisa Ehrlich, who built and sold bee nesting boxes–called Plan Bee–for a school project. They donated the money they raised to a pollinator conservation project at the Houston, Texas zoo.
The key to making the nesting blocks is to use untreated wood for the project.
You can find plans for making bee blocks of your own, as well as nesting boxes for bumblebees by following this link.