Num­bers de­clin­ing

Alberta Gardener Magazine - - Garden Market -

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.

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