The Arboretum is full of flowering plants during the spring, summer, and fall that attract important pollinators, such as bees. Walking through the Rose Garden in the height of summer, you will find yourself surrounded by a constant hum as bees busy themselves finding nectar and collecting pollen. Don’t be afraid. Unlike some wasps, bees are not aggressive, and won’t bother you unless you’re posing a threat to them or their nests. Most males don’t even have stingers.
About three quarters of all flowering plants require pollination in order to set seed and fruit. This includes foods we eat every day. In recent years, honey bees have been at risk due to the unexplained phenomenon of Colony Collapse Disorder. Our native bees are in decline as well, from various threats such as pesticide use, habitat loss, and disease.
Here are some ways that you can help our beneficial bee friends:
- Create a Pesticide-Free Pollinator Garden: Creating a pollinator garden requires that you have flowering plants from spring through fall and that you don’t use harmful pesticides. Native plants work best. The Arboretum often has classes available to help you get started. The Remarkable Plants for Non-Stop Color workshop on October 1st will focus on pollinator-friendly plants that don’t require pesticides.
- Build a Mason Bee Nest House: Mason bees lay eggs in small cavities, such as hollowed out stems, and seal them off with plant material or mud that forms a mortar-like barrier to protect their eggs. You can learn how to build your own bee house for these native, non-stinging males and non-aggressive females, by taking the Mason Bee Nest Box Workshop on November 7th.
- Start Your Own Beehive: Beekeeping requires a lot of research and a long-term commitment, however you get delicious honey as a result! A great way to introduce yourself to beekeeping and decide if it’s right for you is to take Beekeeping 101: A Workshop for the Bee-Curious on October 10th.
- Educate Yourself: There are many online resources and books available on bees, beekeeping, and pollinator gardening. You can find some excellent books, as well as other bee-themed items, in The Shop at the Arboretum. You can learn more about bees online at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and Bumblebee Conservation Trust websites. You can help monitor bumblebee populations by participating in a citizen science project called Bumble Bee Watch. Also, the annual Philadelphia Honey Festival provides many fun ways to learn more about honey bees. This year the festival runs September 11-13, 2015.
Article contributed by Kristen Bower, Guest Garden Blogger for Morris Arboretum