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Plant selection helps maintain healthy bee population

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Robin Trott - U of M Extension Educator

You have undoubtedly heard recent stories about the precipitous decline in bee populations in recent years.

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Whether due to colony collapse disorder, where for still unknown reasons, worker bees simply abandon the hive; or the reckless use of neonicotinoid insecticides (neonics), which are fatal to bees, the declining bee population is bad news for bee keepers and farmers alike.

Pollinators are essential to our environment.

“Seventy percent of the world’s flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world’s crop species, rely on pollinators to reproduce. The fruits and seeds from these crops are necessary for 30 percent of the foods and beverages we consume, and include the most nutritious and interesting parts of our diet: apples, watermelon, blueberries, carrots, broccoli and almonds, to name but a few. We also count on pollinators for the beef and dairy products that come from cattle raised on alfalfa.” (Madder, Spivak and Evans, Managing Alternative Pollinators, 2010) Gardeners can do their part to help. Carefully read the label of insecticides you choose to use in your own garden. Pay particular attention to the Environmental Hazards section. If the label states that the pesticide is toxic to bees, consider a more bee-friendly alternative.

Ask your local nurseries and garden centers if the plants they carry are neonic free, or consider starting your own plants, to ensure that neonics aren’t present in your garden.

Plant selection can also help to maintain healthy bee populations. There are hundreds of bee species in Minnesota. Providing a diverse array of plants will help ensure that you support a diverse array of species. Pay particular attention to plants that bloom from April to September.

 For more information about how you can support native pollinators, visit www.beelab.umn.edu 

or www.xerces.org.

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