Native Pollinators

Yesterday I attended a short course on Native Pollinators presented by The Xerces Society and held at MOFGA’s education center.  While much of the course seemed restatements of common sense for establishing pollinator habitat (“use less pesticide” being one example) there were some statements that caught my attention.

Just under 250 native pollinators work our wild blueberries.  That does not include the honey bee (which is native to Europe.)  It makes me wonder if a truly agricultural chemical free operation that worked to provide buffer habitat for native pollinators around the blueberry fields, would get adequate pollination without the use of honey bees.

One consideration would have to be the size of the blueberry field as there are ground dwelling bees that would have a tough time surviving bi-annual prunnings, and would have flight distance limitations from buffer habitat.  Perhaps you have pollinator habitats scattered throughout the field.

The big advantage to humans that honey bees have for the pollination of wild blueberries over native pollinators is that honey bees can be managed.  You can flood an area with honey bees and be confident that as long as the weather conditions are conducive to honey bee flight, you’ll achieve adequate pollination.  The key phrase there is “conducive to honey bee flight.”  Today is rainy with the temperature hovering around 50.  Honey Bees are sticking to the hive today whereas some of the native pollinators will be out pollinating.

With a typical monoculture blueberry operation, the honey bee colonies are removed at the end of bloom and removed to pollinate another crop somewhere else.  Native pollinators can’t be moved and depending on individual pollinator concerns, may starve.  So a habitat consisting of a progression of pollen and nectar sources is needed.

At BeeBerry Woods, I think there is plenty of existing native pollinator habitat.  Perhaps it can be augmented with bee blocks for wood dwelling pollinators, but since the vast majority of native pollinators are ground dwelling we don’t need to go crazy putting out blocks.  I do need to think about how I go about pruning the field – presently I mow with a rotary mower – it might not be a bad idea to establish habitat islands within the field.

Of course at present our blueberry field (between 5 and 10 acres in size) is not commercially harvested – though I admit to having fantasies that one day it will.  It is being encroached on by great bee plants – golden rod and field roses – so while I lament the loss of picture perfect blueberry field – I enjoy having the additional food sources for the bees.

This summer I will endeavor to photograph and identify native pollinators around the property and post their pictures here.  That presumes I’ll learn how to post pictures.  One can hope.

2 thoughts on “Native Pollinators

  1. 1. If you get rid of all the honey bees in the US tomorrow, your wild bees and many other plalinotors, will still have a problem and this means that there will be issues with pollination.2. Actually, we don’t really know what the effects of decimated pollinator populations will really be. I am concerned, however, at the relaxed attitude toward biodiversity loss exhibited by some, when we are ignorant of the precise consequences, and when we cannot turn the clocks back.3. All the bees and other insects including other plalinotors, need help, not just honey bees. Wild bees and other plalinotors actually perform most of the pollination in gardens, countryside etc. Take into account that (and within a context of declining wild honey bee colonies) honey bee pollination is limited by the availability of beekeepers honey bees like all bees, have a limited foraging radius. Also, note that different species are better adapted to pollinating different plants.4. I am tired of this hypocritical they’re not native debate. Neither are many of our food stuffs and garden plants. We are happy with non-native when it suits us, then when humans make a mess of it., we trot out the they’re not native so they don’t matter drivel, regardless of what the issues faced by these creatures, are actually pointing to (i.e. man’s idiocy in his treatment of the environment).5. I am against the breeding of native bees for pollination. These things start small, then grow into genetic tampering, so that we cause other problems. Less of this sticking plaster’ approach let’s sort out the problems in the environment, and stop spraying toxic, bee-killing crap, plus restore some much needed habitat.6. Honey bees are probably a real problem for pesticide companies. Unlike other bees, they are widely studies, AND, colonies survive over longer periods meaning that consequences of spraying agricultural poisons can be more effectively measured in time. And of course, also in product (honey, wax, pollen all easily extracted in good quantities from honey bee hives).Let’s also not forget that the actions of many beekeepers have helped raise awareness of the issue of neonicotinoid threats whereas data on wild bees and plalinotors is very patchy, so loses and dangers would not have been noted so quickly. Beekeepers are running on-going business selling services provided by bees colonies that will hopefully thrive for years not a short term let’s sell a few bee nests and keep breeding more to sell next season approach.In short, we need to ask ourselves what problems need to be addressed in the environment, so that plalinotors can thrive. Then we need to act.

    • We estimate that the hive of bees would be 1,200 bees. We found this ansewr by counting 1/4 of the picture. We found that there were 70 bees in 1/4 of the picture. We added 70+70+70+70=280 bees. Then we rounded 280 to 300 bees. Next we knew that 300 was just 1/4 of the entire bee hive. So we multiplied 300 4=1,200 bees in the bee hive. We are so glad that we did not have to count 1,200 bees! Thank goodness we know how to estimate!Mrs. Martel’s 2nd & 3rd graders

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