Honey bees and native bees like bumble bees, carpenterbees, sweat bees, leafcutter and mason bees are critical to our food supply. They are responsible for pollinating about one-third of the food we eat. Here are 4 suggestions to make your landscape a paradise for pollinators.
1. Provide places for shelter and nesting. Most of our native bee species are solitary and do not live in hives. Instead they nest in dead wood, twigs and hollow stems, so leave some brush piles or dead wood for nesting. Others burrow in bare areas of well-drained soil in sunny locations, so providing areas like this will help ground-nesting bees.
2. Add a water source, like a shallow dish or birdbath with stones for landing on.
3. Nectar and pollen plants for food. Native plants are best for native pollinators. Try to have plants flowering throughout the year with overlapping bloom periods, diverse sizes and types of flowers.
4. Refrain from using pesticides. Avoid spraying plants that are flowering. If you must spray, use the least toxic pesticide with the shortest residual activity. Pesticides that don’t stick around allow pollinators and other beneficial insects to move back in quickly and safely.
For more information, pollinator.org has a great planting guide for our area, or visit the Pollinator Garden at the Exploration Gardens at Orange County Extension for more ideas.
By Kelly Greer, Residential Horticulture, UF/IFAS County Extension Orange County