The Unsung Pollinators

Without our native pollinators, we would not find tomatoes, citrus, melons, mango and many other foods so easily and cheaply available in our stores.

Honeybees are native to India and are dying out due to several diseases that have recently followed them here. Killer bees will soon arrive and end backyard beekeeping. Fortunately there are other, even more efficient, native pollinators.

You may already know about hummingbirds, butterflies, bumble and carpenter bees and even bats as pollinators. The less commonly known include: lady beetles, thrips, wasps, flower flies, sap beetles, moths, some songbirds, solitary bees and the lowly opossum.

It’s fun to attract our local pollinators and it is kid friendly too. Solitary bees won’t sting unless handled and some don’t have a stinger at all. Colony forming bees like honey bees, bumble bees and paper wasps will sting to protect the queen, so don’t disturb the nest. Honeybees leave the stinger in you and die soon after. This is why they rarely sting if bothered while visiting flowers….they just move on.

To help various pollinators nest in your yard, try the following: Turn a six-inch or larger clay flowerpot upside down under a bush for bumble bees to nest in. Leave some small areas of bare ground. The three-eighths inch bright green halictid bee will dig a tiny volcano-like hole in the ground there. Drill quarter-inch or more diameter holes, two inches deep into posts or blocks of wood for the black mason bee to nest in. Also, hang horizontally a bundle of paper straws with a plastic roof for this bee.

Rotted tree stumps, old dry stalks, muddy soil, dead wood, wildflowers and reduced or no insecticide use are ways to build up a nice population of pollinators. Get rid of some grass and restore your yard with natives. You will find that your fruit trees yield better and that the shrubs, which you have planted to provide berries for your songbirds, will fruit abundantly.

I have found that kids love watching the swarms of pollinators that are attracted to the blood berry bush, Cordia globosa. This native likes dry soil and has small nonpoisonous berries that the birds like too.