This school year my son pitched a ‘save the bee’ plan to his fellow students. He proposed that his class sponsor a honey bee hive to be place in a community space. He thought this would increase awareness to the essential role bees play in our food supply.
As part of their research they called a local Honey Farmer and scheduled a field-trip to discuss the project. What my they learned at his meeting with the Honey Farmer, I have to admit I did not know…
(Fruit Hill Farm Apiary, May 2017)
Honey bees are colony bees, but there is a whole other world of pollinator bees that just don’t receive the same level of attention…solitary bees. There are over 4000 types of solitary bees, and they fall into 2 categories:
* Mining bees (about 70% of solitary bees)
* Nesting bees (about 30% of solitary bees)
Mining bees burrow into the ground and create their temporary living spaces in garden beds and lawns. If you see them and you desire to encourage bee populations, just leave them alone. Let them enjoy their short lived residency in your yard. They will only be around from 10 days to 4 weeks, and the great news for your garden is they are around when your garden needs them most!
(Nesting Bumble Bee spotted on Fruit Hill Farm)
Nesting bees, include summer leafcutter bees and the increasingly popular springtime mason bees. The most prevalent mason bee in our area is the Blue Orchard Bee and they are the workhorse of our pollination world. Some mason bees accomplish the pollinating work of 120 honey bees! To promote nesting bees survival, all we have to do is provide them a sanctuary or ‘bee hotel’ for respite when needed.
We all learned a lot this year through my son’s mission to ‘save the bees’. No doubt honey bees are an essential part of growing food. If you want to join the effort of protecting bees however, don’t forget about the unsung heroes of our food system, the solitary bees.
(Food Forest Bee Sanctuary, May 2017)