The UF/IFAS Extension St Lucie County Florida Master Naturalist Uplands course is an examination of plants, animals and human interactions in upland systems. Master Naturalists Tammy Tauscher, Walter Stickley and Michelle Peterson formed a team in the Jan-Feb 2018 Uplands course to enhance native bee habitat at Lakela’s Mint Preserve in St Lucie County for their final project. Information about their project is below.
Contributing author: Michelle Peterson, Florida Master Naturalist and final project manager.
When most people think about bees they usually think about honey bees – non-native bees brought to North America by European settlers. Few consider the 4,000+ native American bees, or the more than 300 native bee species that inhabit Florida. However, three Florida Master Naturalist Program students recognize the critical importance of native bees to their local ecosystem, and hope these little-known bees will play a part in bringing back an endemic, endangered plant species, Lakela’s mint (Dicerandra immaculata).
Michelle Peterson, Walter Stickley and Tammy Tauscher constructed native bee nests and created a habitat for cavity-dwelling solitary bees at St. Lucie County’s newest environmental resource acquisition – The Lakela’s Mint Preserve. They worked in conjunction with their FMNP instructors UF/IFAS Extension Agent Ken Gioeli and St. Lucie County Senior Lands Stewardship & Outreach Coordinator Amanda Thompson to develop the project and choose an appropriate site to encourage these solitary soldiers to take up residence at the preserve.
Since most solitary bees forage within 100 feet to 100 yards of their habitat, these industrious insects will definitely increase pollination throughout the preserve. The team is optimistic that attracting native bees will help the local Lakela’s mint flourish.
Additional project photos online at https://wjstickley.smugmug.com/Bees/n-QQV997/