Where are the Bumblebees?

Can our small gardens become more BeeSmart?

I went around our yard looking for the bumblebees today. I have seen them occasionally buzzing around the flowers in the past week. But today, I didn’t spot any bees at all–as these snapshots attest. 

Maybe at this point in the summer, our yard does not offer the best mix of flowering plants for the native bees. Maybe, I need to wait for evening. Anyone know the best time of day to spot bumblebees?  

Can our small garden become more BeeSmart? I can’t resist a good smartphone app and will trying out this one in the coming weeks: BeeSmart Pollinator Gardener (from the Pollinator Partnership.) 

As a nation, we are celebrating National Pollinator Week June 18-24, 2012! 

Without an adequate number of pollinators, we would have no apple crop here in the Hudson Valley, never mind all the other fruits and vegetables that rely on insects for pollination.

Large commercial farms have been using European honeybees for pollination for some time. These honeybees have been suffering from colony collapse disorder, for reasons that are not entirely clear, but may be exacerbated by the stress of long distance trucking, exposure to wide range of environments and pests, among others. But native bees have been dissappearing as well in ever rapid trends that should concern us all.

The native bee species, the rusty-patched bumblebee and yellow-banded bumblebee, have been among the hardest-hit on the East Coast.  

John Upton writes the following in an excellent article on Grist:

“Amid the plague of colony collapse disorder (CCD), some farmers are looking back to native pollinators like the rusty-patched bumblebee  — as well as hummingbirds and butterflies — to help ensure that the nation can continue growing food. And in the process, they’re discovering a stinging reality that researchers have known for more than a decade: Many of North America’s once-plentiful bumblebee species have all but disappeared.” 

Believe it or not, it is possible to build native bee nests (no need for honeycombs) to give the bumblebees a hand.  

PS For more on crossbreeding wild and feral bees with honeybees to build up genetic diversity for our pollinators to avoid colony collapse disorder, see this interesting recent article from Enrique Gili. 

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