Bees! Anyone who has walked through a field of blooming lavender in summer, brushed up against a shrub of flowering rosemary or visited Tilden’s botanical garden when the ceanothus are blooming in early spring will attest to the amazing attraction between the flowers and the bees. The dance between the nectar and pollen seeking bees and the beaconing flowers desiring to be crossed pollinated is in full force. This relationship, as described by Gordon W. Frankie, co-author of California Bees & Blooms, has played a profound role on our earth’s development: “Flowering plants have arose and have become the largest and most diverse group of terrestrial plants as a result of their unique relationships with animal pollinators, particularly bees.”
Not only that . . . but according to Stephen Buchmann in his introduction to The Forgotten Pollinators, “One in every three mouthfuls you swallow is prepared by from plants pollinated by animals”. Of course, the majority of those animals are bees!
Did you know that only about 10 percent of the world’s bee species are social and only a small percentage of these live in hives? Only the European introduced honey bees live in hives in North America. Where do the rest of them live? Most bees live alone in individual nests, either made by tunneling into the bare ground or in crevices or pre-existing cavities in logs, or other structures. Another astounding fact, brought out in California Bees & Blooms is that California is home to over 1,600 identified species of bees, with only a very few of them being non-native (including the honey bee).
What can we do, as SF Bay Area gardeners, to support our bee population, which in turn, supports our agricultural world and ultimately our food? Given the preferred habitat for most of our bees, we can leave a portion of our garden soil un-mulched, to provide the bare ground needed for nest making. Also, by leaving small logs and other crevice-making material in our garden we can provide much needed crevices for our busy pollinators.
Kate Frey, author, teacher and award winning garden designer will present our Oct. 17 program on “Growing a Habitat/Pollinator Garden”. She is co-author of The Bee-Friendly Garden, published by Ten Speed Press in 2016. She will show us how gardening and plant selection can go along way to promote the viability of bees and other pollinator visitors. Kate will share with us how to create a pollinator friendly habitat and discuss the flowering plants that will attract the bees and other pollinators to our gardens.