- bee balm
- mountain mint
- evening primrose
A long season of bloom is desirable both for aesthetics and to support wildlife. Here's a bee on the boneset flowers.
There are many great ecological restoration projects in Ann Arbor and southeast Michigan, USA. This blog will report on some of them, especially the May Beth Doyle Nature Preserve. We'll digress to other projects, and some related topics as well, including ways to nurture native trees and shrubs.
In the article "Wild Bees (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Anthophila) of the Michigan Highbush Blueberry Agroecosystem," authors Julianna K. Tuell (Michigan State University), John S. Ascher (American Museum of Natural History), and Rufus Isaacs (Michigan State University) report the results of a three-year study which took place on 15 southwestern Michigan blueberry farms. Using traps and direct observation, the authors identified 166 bee species, 112 of which were active during the blueberry blooming period. Many of these species visit more flowers per minute and deposit more pollen per visit than honey bees (Apis mellifera L.), and most of them are potential blueberry pollinators.
"This should help growers know what kinds of bees are in the fields so that they can make informed decisions about whether they should modify crop management practices in order to help conserve natural populations of bees," said Dr. Julianna Tuell.
Unlike honey bees, which live together in hives, most of the bees found by the authors were solitary bees that nest in the soil or in wood cavities. While soil-nesting bees may be difficult to manage, the authors see potential for cavity-nesting bees, such as several species of mason bees, to be managed by growers who can support their populations by providing nesting materials.
"Untreated bamboo or reeds are good materials because they provide natural variation in hole diameter to attract the broadest range of species," said Dr. Tuell. "There are also a number of commercially manufactured options that growers can use, such as foam blocks with pre-drilled holes and cardboard tubes made to a particular diameter to suit a particular species of interest. Drilling different sized holes in wood is another option. If a grower is interested in trying to build up populations of a particular species, there are also details about how to do so available online."
Besides blueberries, many of the species in this study also visit cherries, apples, and cranberries, and managed mason bees are already being used to pollinate cherry orchards.
Footage of bees' flower visits, with nectar and pollen collection, are breathtaking. The efforts of other creatures to enter the hive, and the bees' response, are vividly shown. Additional coverage inside the hive includes egg-laying, larval growth, and rivalry among would-be queens. Views of a mating flight are pristine.
The narration is American, and the photography is German. The location is somewhere in
Seeing this you'll understand why honeybees have fascinated humans for millennia.
Chapter 12 “What Should I Plant?” is especially helpful, for it ranks and discusses the 20 genera of woody plants most valuable to Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths). Lepidopterans and their caterpillars form an important part of young birds’ diets. The number of species supported by each genus is amazing: Oaks, which head the list, support 517 species of moths and butterflies as well as walkingsticks and katydids, “hundreds of species of gall wasps,” bess beetles, and large stag beetle species. Hickories, though halfway down the list, nevertheless support 200 Lepidoptera species alone.
Tallamy illustrates his book with his own beautiful and dramatic photographs of insects--feeding, mating, protecting themselves, guarding their eggs or nymphs, being parasitized. The last major section of the book is devoted to a “portrait gallery” of herbivorous insects (and some of their arthropod predators), with short discussions of each. Strange, imposing, elegant, beautiful—and sometimes all of these—the insects shown here and elsewhere in the book help make the author’s passionate argument for saving these creatures on which so much depends. …
Readers are certain to find Tallamy’s book revealing and inspiring.