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Supporting Pollinators

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
Amelanchier spp.
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

Honeybees
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.
Spiraea spp.
Viburnum spp.
Witch Hazel - Hamemelis spp.

Bumblebees
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.

Butterflies
Butterfly Bush - Buddleia davidii
Dill - Anethum graveolens
Dutchman’s Pipe - Aristolochia durior
Echinacea spp.
Gayfeather - Liatris spp.
Hardhack - Spiraea douglasii
Hawthorn - Crataegus spp.
Joe Pye Weed - Eupatorium spp.
Mexican Sunflower -
Tithonia rotundifolia
Milkweed - Asclepias syriaca
Pleurisy Root - Asclepias tuberosa
Queen Anne’s Lace - Daucus carota

Hummingbirds
Bee Balm - Monarda spp.
Chinese Red Sage -
Salvia miltiorrhiza
Lobelia spp.
Native Honeysuckle -
Lonicera sempervirens
Native Jewelweed -
Impatiens capensis
Trumpet Vine -
Campsis radicans
Weigela florida

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Copyright Fedco Seeds Inc.     October 1, 2013