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Garden Fact of the Month: Pollinator Habitat!

Just like us, pollinators need two main things in order to survive:
food (floral resources) and shelter (nesting materials and habitat).

Pollinators (like bees, butterflies, birds, bats, etc.) have a huge impact on us! They play a role in our agriculture, economy, wildlife, and plant diversity. Bees are the most important of all these pollinators because of a key part of their anatomy: the fuzziness. Bees are covered with branched hairs on various parts of their body. These hairs allow them to be the incredible pollen-carrying critters that we know and love!

Colorado is home to 946 different bee species. A majority of these bee species rely on floral resources in the environment. Most of these species are also solitary, and live in individual nests, as opposed to their social counterparts: honey bees. This means that this group of wild bees, all need a place to build their nest (either in the ground, or in cavities).

Due to increased development, these nesting resources are fewer and farther in between.
Although it is always a good idea to incorporate pollinator-friendly plants, encouraging pollinators in your landscape involves more than just flowers, habitat is equally as important. This is especially critical for wild bees that nest in the ground and in existing cavities.

Pictured: A mason-bee emerging from a ground nesting site.

Ground-nesting bee emerging from its nest. (Photo: Abi Saeed)

Here’s how to add ‘Bee Habitat’ to your gardens:

70% of bees nest in the ground. By leaving some bare patches of undisturbed soil (it does not need to be large area, and can be tucked out of the way) you are creating safe ground nesting bee habitat available to those extremely important native pollinators. Although mulch is a useful tool for your garden beds, it creates additional obstacles for a ground nesting bee to get to some actual ground in which she can make a nest. You can still use mulch in your gardens, but leave some areas uncovered to allow direct soil access for bees.

Cavity nesting bees (which covers 30% of bee species) can be just as simple to accommodate! Encourage them in your gardens by creating ‘Mason Bee Houses’ made from wood, bamboo reeds, cardboard tubes, and some sort of container to put them all in.

A small mason bee house on a tree in the foreground, with an apple orchard in the background.

Mason Bee House in the foreground of an apple orchard. (Photo: Abi Saeed)

Additional Resources:

http://extension.colostate.edu/docs/pubs/insect/05616.pdf

http://extension.colostate.edu/docs/pubs/insect/05615.pdf

https://pollinators.msu.edu/publications/building-and-managing-bee-hotels-for-wild-bees/

http://msue.anr.msu.edu/uploads/files/Pollinator_habitat.pdf

 

For more information on encouraging pollinators, and other gardening topics, take a look at our Gardening & Horticulture page!

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