Monday, April 7, 2014

First Pollinator of the Year - European Honey Bee (05 April 2014)

Over the weekend I spent some time cleaning up the flower gardens at my home.  There is not much to see right now.

Flower beds at my home - tulips are starting to pop up in the lower left corner of the photo.

There is not a lot to see as of right now.  Most of the flowering bulbs, including several hundred tulips, are jut starting to emerge from the soil.  New growth can be found at the base of many of the native plants, but others have not emerged from dormancy.

Wild Strawberries (Fragaria virginiana) are beginning to come out of dormancy and turn green
There is not much blooming right now in my home gardens.  In fact only two species of non-native bulbs have produced flowers at this point - a dwarf iris and several varieties of crocus.

A dwarf iris (non-native) in my flower gardens
Despite the relative lack of flowers, I did see my first pollinators of the year on Saturday.  The crocuses were attracting a small number of European Honey Bees.   Based on where I live, I assume these bees are from a wild colony and not a managed hive. 

A European Honey Bee on a crocus.

As their name implies, the European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) is native to Europe (and Asia and Africa).  It was introduced to North America by European colonists and has been part of our landscape ever since.  Many species of crops require bees for pollination so honey bees are an important part of agricultural production.  Over the last couple of decades, honey bees and (many species of native bees) have faced a variety of problems including pesticide use, parasitic mites, habitat loss, and (for honey bees) Colony Collapse Disorder.

There are many things that you can do to help bees and other pollinators.  Plant a variety of plants (especially native plants) that will bloom across the entire growing season from Spring through Fall, do not use broad spectrum pesticides, provide places for native pollinators to nest and hibernate.

To learn more about pollinator conservation visit this page on the Xerces Society website.

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