The Scarboro Garden Scene – bees and pollination

thegardener's picture
Bumble bee on Iceland Poppy
Insect on Pyrethrum

I love the buzz of bees – and our plants benefit from the pollination that occurs as an adjunct to the bees’ nectar collection. Commercially there is great interest in their ability to fertilize crops. (Another mechanism for fertilization is wind - sorry allergy sufferers – pine and grass pollen are a real pain to you). Honey of course is a product many of us enjoy, and the honeybee (“Apis mellifera”, meaning honey-bearing bee) is important throughout the agricultural world. In the last decade or so researchers have realized that hive destruction is probably caused by several factors, some of which are of our own making. One problem is that deaths occur when they are transported around North America to “service” crops in need of their fertilization, for instance hives maybe moved after pollinating almonds in California to the canola crops of the Dakotas, and then down to the grapefruit of Florida.
Many bees are troubled by habitat loss (absence of weeds reduces the supply of nectar for bees, and insecticides themselves may damage pollinators): mite infestation coupled with consequent fungal, viral, and bacterial infections occurs in the weakened bees. Insecticides include neonicotinoids (“neonics”), which are related to nicotine, some of which are currently banned in Europe: those insecticides also may be detrimental to bird and aquatic life. Not surprisingly, Ontario’s corn and soybean producers and chemical suppliers seem to be at odds with beekeepers and “green” people.
What can we do to help pollinators? Have a variety of blooms throughout the growing season, and collect plants with different flower shapes as some bees are restricted by the shape of the blooms. Big bumblebees, moths, butterflies, wasps and hoverflies and other insects all pollinate flowers and flowering shrubs and trees – a healthy, varied garden helps all parties.

Glynn Wright: June 20th, 2015