Pollinator habitat

Stems from the invasive knotweed have been cut down to provide nesting sites for native bees.

Importance of native bees

The European honeybee was imported into north America in 1622, very early in the colonization of the continent by Europeans. Over the four centuries since it was brought here, the species has thrived not only in cultivation, but also as feral colonies started by swarms that escaped from managed hives. At the same time much habitat used by native bees has been lost.  

There are about 4000 species of bees native to the US.  Many of these are solitary, that is, they don't live in colonies but rather lay their eggs individually in the ground, in holes in wood, or in hollow stems. They include species of sweat bees, carpenter bees, and many others.  Most of these bees are non-aggressive; many cannot sting, and those who can generally only do so if they are directly threatened, for example if they are stepped on. They pollinate all kinds of plants.

Just as interest in native plants has increased because of their potential for supported a more stable and complex landscape, so too has concern about the loss of native insect habitat increased. There are a number of things we can all do to promote the health of native insect communities.

Leave the leaves and stems! Many of these bees overwinter in plant stems while they are still on the plant or after they have fallen to the ground. Blowing or raking flowerbeds disrupts the homes of insects. Obsession with neat and tidy flowerbeds results in significant loss of habitat. Lazy gardening is beneficial to wildlife!

Stop the spraying! The sprays used to kill adult mosquitoes also kill bees, butterflies, beetles, and other insects. Consider alternatives to broad spectrum insecticides when controlling mosquitoes.

For his Eagle Scout project Ansel Nathanson built a lovely bee habitat for the trail. He used cedar in constructing the support and the frames are removable so that we can change the stems every couple of years to keep things safe for the pollinators. Follow the link above, as well as the resources below, to learn how to create bee habitat in your yard.

For more information about building habitat for native bees, try these sources: