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Extension > Local Extension Offices > Blue Earth > County Agriculture Educator > Articles > Pollinators are the "Bee's Knees'!

Pollinators are the "Bee's Knees'!

When I was a kid, there was nothing more terrifying than finding a bee while playing outside. Although I had never actually been stung, just hearing the other children rant and rave about how mean and horrible bees were was enough to keep me away from them. Whenever a bee was found in the classroom, the teacher or a brave student was quick to take a magazine and squash it before it took any unwilling victims. As I’ve grown older, my bee etiquette has changed, and definitely for the better! Bees aren’t only our friends in agriculture, they are our partners, and it’s our job to help protect them.


Healthy bees in Minnesota lay eggs in the spring, are active in the summer, and nest over the winter, maintaining their population all year round. Unfortunately, in 2006, researchers discovered that bee populations were falling dramatically each year towards the end of the summer; they called this Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). At first, they were unsure what was causing CCD, but now researchers have a better understanding of the source. University of Minnesota Entomologists Krischik and Tenczar state, “Most researchers now agree that honey bee decline [CCD] is due to multiple, interacting causes, including the effects of bee specific diseases and parasites, lack of floral resources that provide good bee nutrition, and lethal and sub-lethal effects of pesticides.”


Pollinators are a big part of all agricultural operations. Krischik and Tenczar estimate that bees and other pollinators pollinate anywhere between 30 and 70 percent of all flowering plants, which amounts to over $18 billion dollars in crop yields for nuts, vegetables, and fruit in the United States. Just last week, the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee joined the endangered species list. These bees are native to southern Minnesota, are the first pollinator to join this list; we need to do our part in helping them get off of the endangered species list, and giving all of our pollinators a bright future.


Anyone with a yard can help rebuild our bee population; all you need is a place to plant some flowers! Pollinators require both nectar and pollen to complete their lifecycle, so planting a variety of trees, shrubs, and flowers that bloom from April through September creates a perfect environment. Bee specialists suggest planting flowers that are native to Minnesota, such as wild rose, purple prairie clover, or anise hyssop. A full list of native flowers that bloom throughout the season can be found online by clicking here. Another bee friendly practice is to avoid using pesticides on or around native habitats, especially neonicotinoids, pyrethroids and organophosphates; these chemicals are especially toxic to bees. Finally, you can help by providing good nesting sites for native bees. Bees will nest in different spots depending on their species; some bee species nest in the ground, while others nest in cavities or in wood.


Our Minnesota bee population is vital to maintaining a healthy ecosystem, and producing all the wonderful foods we enjoy eating. For more information on bees and other pollinators, contact your local Master Gardener Coordinator.

 

Written by: Kendra Schroeder, Interim Extension Educator

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