Gardeners are a grateful people, and part of our gratitude can be traced to bees.
This year, I enjoyed four butternut squashes from our garden.
I was only able to enjoy this harvest, though, because of bees.
The bees and I have a win-win partnership.
I plant flowers and vegetables. That gives bees a food source, and they, in turn, pollinate the plants.
Bees and pollinators are important to people for many reasons:
- One-third of the food we eat comes from animal-pollinated plants.
- They help pollinate our native plants and wildflowers.
- They pollinate blueberries, an $82 million per year industry in Florida.
- Forage plants, used by meat and dairy industries, depend on pollinators to produce seed.
- More than 100 crops in the U.S., such as apples, squash, pumpkin, cranberries, onions, carrots and blueberries, benefit from pollination.
But, there are concerns about bee decline.
Several factors contribute to bee decline, including bee nutrition.
Bees gather nectar and pollen from flowers. The nectar provides bees carbohydrates and minerals to help them with flight, colony maintenance and general daily activities.
Pollen provides protein, fats, minerals and vitamins, and aids in the development of young bees.
But, did you know that all pollen is not created equal? The nutritive components of pollen differ among plants.
Bee nutrition is important to bee health and the development of young bees.
A yard or garden with only a few plants may provide less pollen variety for the bees. However, a diverse garden can provide bees more flower choices, different pollen components and, hopefully, better nutrition.
Eric Mader with the University of Minnesota explains, “As a general rule, gardeners who want to conserve bees should provide a minimum of three plant species that bloom at any given time during the growing season.”
Flower diversity includes not only color (red, pink, white, orange, purple and yellow flowers), but also bloom periods, texture and height. Diversity in height can be achieved by planting groundcovers, flowers, vines, shrubs, grasses and trees. Plants that bloom throughout the year, especially late fall, winter, and early spring, provide bees important nutrition during winter.
Add flowers to your garden that have different shapes, such as daisies, clusters, tubular flowers and bell-shaped flowers.
Bees use fine and coarse textured plants (woody stems, leaves and grasses) for nesting materials. Plant in clumps, rather than as single plants, to attract more pollinators and provide nutritional benefits.
Examples of great bee plants include American beautyberry, partridge pea, dotted horsemint, blanket flower, Walter’s viburnum, native milkweeds, frogfruit, larraflower, sunflower, cosmos, mint, African blue basil, salvia, pentas, fennel, dill, black-eyed Susan, grasses, ironweed, blackberry lily, hollies, redbud, saw palmetto, and many more.
Plant a variety of flowers and create long-season food sources to provide bees better nutrition throughout the year.
Thank a bee for its pollinator services as you enjoy your holiday meals.
And, add a few more flowers to your yard or garden so a bee can have a nutritious, happy Thanksgiving.
By Nicole Pinson
Ellis, A., J.D. Ellis, M.K. O’Malley, and C.M. Zettel Nalen. (2017). The Benefits of Pollen to Honey Bees. IFAS Publication Number ENY152. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Retrieved from http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/IN/IN86800.pdf.
Mader, E. (2015). Conserving Pollinators: A Primer for Gardeners. University of Minnesota. Retrieved from http://articles.extension.org/pages/19581/conserving-pollinators:-a-primer-for-gardeners.
For additional information, contact or (813) 744-5519, ext. 54145.
Nicole Pinson is the Urban Horticulture Agent in Hillsborough County.
Published November 22, 2017