It is this pollen collecting of the bumblebees that makes them so incredibly important to food production in the world. While most cereal grains are pollinated by the wind, the vast majority of fruit and nut crops, lots of vegetables and other agricultural crops like cotton and clovers, are pollinated by insects – primarily honey and bumble bees. Bumble bees are especially good at pollinating tomatoes and are increasingly being used commercially in Europe in greenhouse tomato productions. It is also interesting to note that unlike honey bees, the robust, hairy bumblebees will continue to collect nectar and pollen on cloudy, cool and rainy days.
In recent years, much has been reported about the modern stressors affecting bees, primarily honey bees but most bees are under stress, including bumblebees. Some native species are suffering more than others but the bumblebees that are seeing declines in numbers are likely being affected by the same factors that are causing decreases in honey bees. So as with all beneficial insects, it is important in gardens to grow plants that are attractive to these insects. Bumblebees especially like flowering plants such as those in the mint family like monarda (also called bee balm), sunflowers and clovers. A diversity of plants in the garden is always a good idea for providing plenty of food choices for bumblebees. It can also be beneficial to leave areas of unmown native grasses, brush areas or dead trees for nesting habitats.