Creating a bee pasture
By Jodi Henke
Attract these beneficial insects to your garden by creating a bee-friendly pasture -- a cafeteria, of sorts, to entice bees to hang around. USDA entomologist Jim Cane says first decide what your goals are and how you will use the bees. For example, the blue orchard bee that pollinates tree fruits only needs to feed three to five weeks per year.
"In that case, you're trying to extend the foraging season a few weeks past apple bloom and maybe precede apple bloom with something to tide them over if they emerge a bit early," says Cane. "For honey bees who forage all during the growing season, there needs to be something in bloom for them at all times."
Don't plant a bee pasture near fields sprayed with insecticide. A good location is adjacent to undisturbed areas, which also benefits ground-nesting bees. Attracting a specific bee from a long distance might take patience. If what you need is already buzzing around, you'll witness the magic of a bee pasture in no time.
"If you already have bees that are desirable, such as bumblebees, then put out more forage for them in late summer when they're missing resources," says Cane. "That's a much more attractable undertaking and will yield rewards fairly quickly."
You'll be limited to the plants suitable for your area. Your Extension office can help. Also, explore your area when different flowers are blooming and see what bees are visiting.
A map of bee-friendly plants, listed by state, can be found at the Xerces Society's website, www.xerces.org. Xerces also offers a starter kit of 38 plants -- blue wild indigo, coneflower, bottle gentian, prairie dropseed, and more -- to create a bumble bee garden.
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