From May to October we eat lunch at a rough unfinished pine-plank
dining table on our porch. One day as I was eating my leftovers
I noticed a tiny bee buzzing around my plate. She didn’t look
threatening so I wasn’t too concerned. Then, all of sudden,
she disappeared. Into the table! Then she reappeared. Lo and behold:
a whole bunch of these tiny creatures had moved into the small worm
holes that pepper the surface of the plank. In and out they’d
go, sometimes emerging with little bits of wood. Our lunch table
had become prime habitat for solitary pollinating bees.
The honey bee (Apis mellifera) is facing great challenges
these days. Native pollinators such as Mining (Andrena),
Mason (Osmia) and Plaster (Colletes) bees are
playing an increasingly important role in the orchard. But they
can’t live on apple blossoms (or pine bits) alone! You don’t
need to set out old plank tables, but you can purchase or construct
“mason bee” houses. And you can populate your gardens
and orchard with successional food sources to entice them to stick
around year after year.
We have been cultivating an assortment of plants in our orchard
to feed all these pollinators. In some instances, this means setting
out plants or sowing seed. In other cases, it simply means leaving
the native plants alone and allowing them to thrive. In other words,
hold that scythe and lawn mower. Resist the temptation to make your
orchard look like a golf course. Let Nature do its thing.
Guidelines for the best pollinator habitat
Maximize native plants: That’s what the bees are looking for.
Maximize species: Three or more species all blooming at once.
Maximize color: Three or more colors blooming at once. Blue, purple,
white and yellow are the best.
Maximize variety: Lots of flower shapes.
Maximize clump size: Create masses at least 4' in diameter rather
than the odd lonely plant here and there.
Selected Plants for Feeding Your Pollinators
Native Bees, Wasps, Moths, Flies, etc.
Angelica - Angelica archangelica
Anise Hyssop - Agastache foeniculum
Aster- Symphyotrichum spp.
Black Cohosh - Actaea racemosa (a.k.a. Cimicifuga)
Boneset - Eupatorium perfoliatum
California Poppy - Eschscholzia californica
Culver’s Root - Veronicastrum virginicum
Dogwood - Cornus spp.
Eastern Redbud - Cercis canadensis
Hyssop -Hyssopus officinalis
Linden - Tilia americana
Summersweet - Clethra alnifolia
Buckwheat - Fagopyrum spp.
Chestnut - Castanea spp.
Crabapple - Malus spp.
Dandelion- Taraxacum officinalis
Elderberry - Sambucus spp.
Elm - Ulmus spp.
Hawthorn - Crataegus spp.
Honeylocust - Gleditsia triacanthos
Mockorange - Philadelphus spp.
Persimmon - Diospyros spp.
Poppy - Papaver spp.
Mountain Ash - Sorbus spp.
Witch Hazel - Hamemelis spp.
Blueberry - Vaccinium spp.
Blue Vervain - Verbena hastata
Clover - Trifolium spp.
Figwort - Scrophularia nodosa
Goldenrod - Solidago spp.
Lavender - Lavandula spp.
Wild Lupine - Lupinus perennis
Willow - Salix spp.
Butterfly Bush - Buddleia davidii
Dill - Anethum graveolens
Dutchman’s Pipe - Aristolochia durior
Gayfeather - Liatris spp.
Hardhack - Spiraea douglasii
Hawthorn - Crataegus spp.
Joe Pye Weed - Eupatorium spp.
Mexican Sunflower -
Milkweed - Asclepias syriaca
Pleurisy Root - Asclepias tuberosa
Queen Anne’s Lace - Daucus carota
Bee Balm - Monarda spp.
Chinese Red Sage -
Native Honeysuckle -
Native Jewelweed -
Trumpet Vine -