Animal and insect pollinators are essential to pollination in over 75% of the world’s flowering plants, which includes roughly 35 percent of the world’s crops. Animal and insect pollinators include bees, moths, flies, bats, birds, ants, butterflies, wasps and beetles. Some of these pollinator species have declined in numbers, become endangered or even gone extinct due to the loss of natural food supplies and habitat. As a result, pollinator conservation was made an important part of H.R. 6124, the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, commonly known as the Farm Bill. This act covers a wide range of agricultural and food programs, but it also includes conservation programs. This bill provides support for research and makes pollinator habitat conservation a priority for land managers and conservationists. It will benefit both managed pollinators such as honey bees as well as wild pollinator species across the U.S.
Honey bees don’t just produce wax and honey – they are extremely valuable pollinators of many agricultural crops. Honey bees are not native to the U.S. – they originally came from Europe and were brought over by early colonists. The list of crops that are pollinated by honey bees is endless – including fruits, berries, nuts, clovers, alfalfa, canola, and many vegetables. Alfalfa is an important forage crop in the U.S. Honey bee colonies have long been managed by beekeepers to provide pollination services for crops as well as for honey production.
Honey bee populations have been in decline in recent years. According to the U.S. Agricultural Research Service, there has been a loss of about one third of honey bee hives in beekeeping operations across the United States. Recent studies suggest that these declines have been caused by the combination of several factors which may include infectious pathogens, malnutrition, stress, and pesticides.
Most recently, beekeepers have been striving to reduce pesticide use near hives and investing more in food supplies for their bees. Planting flowers that produce pollen and nectar, especially during the weeks when crops are not blooming, help to provide nutrition to honey bees throughout the entire season. With enhanced nutrition and health, honey bees will be better equipped to fend off disease, pathogens, and the effects of stress.
According to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, there are over 4000 species of native bees in the U.S. alone. Bees are the most predominant pollinators of flowering plants in nature, thus contributing a vital service to the ecosystem. Because of this important role, bees are referred to as “keystone organisms”.
Some native bees have names that reflect how they build nests—leafcutter bees, mason bees, miner bees, carpenter bees, digger bees, etc. Others are named for their behavior, which include bumble bees, sweat bees, and cuckoo bees. Finally there are some bees that are named for the types of plants they pollinate such as squash, sunflower and blueberry bees.
If honey bees are in short supply, the pollination needs of many crops can often be filled by native bees. Research has shown that native bees can be major pollinators of agricultural crops and sometimes do the job more efficiently. For instance, the blue orchard bee is a primary pollinator of cultivated apples. Another important crop pollinator is the western bumble bee, which has been used to pollinate cranberries, avocadoes, and blueberries. Native squash bees are major pollinators of cultivated squashes. Some native bees are even commercially managed like honey bees to provide pollination services.
There was a time when native bees and wild honey bees performed all of a farmer’s pollination needs because of the presence of natural areas nearby. These natural areas provided nesting sites, food and protection for the bees. Because of the way agricultural landscapes are developed today, there is often a lack of native bee habitat and forage near farms. Techniques to encourage native bees to live in your area are simple to implement. These can be done on a farm or in a home garden.
There are 2 ways to engage in native bee conservation. You can preserve known nesting and foraging sites on your property, or you can create them. Good bee habitat must include water, areas for nesting or egg-laying and secure over-wintering sites. Flowers that provide nectar and pollen throughout the growing season will provide adequate food. These habitat and forage areas should never be treated with insecticides or other harmful chemicals. If insecticides are utilized in the vicinity of bee habitat, they should be applied when they have the lowest impact possible on local bee populations. This might entail spraying pesticides only when bees are not active.
For specific information on creating bee habitats, see the links at the bottom of the page. Good bee plants that provide nectar and/or pollen are listed in the next section.
You can choose your own combination of nectar and pollen plants from our extensive listing of bee flowers. For additional information on these flowers, go to the single species page. Choose nectar and pollen plants from each bloom period to provide optimum bee forage all summer long. If you are growing an agricultural crop, avoid bee plants that bloom at the same time to insure that bees pollinate your crop.
This mix is a blend of annual and perennial flowers that provide nectar and pollen to wild bees, honey bees and other pollinators. It contains early, mid-, and late blooming flowers in order to provide bee forage all season long. Flowers are suitable for short-tongued and long-tongued bees and come in a wide range of colors for an attractive display.
This mix is a blend of annual and perennial flowers that provide nectar and pollen to honey bees. These flowers are proven favorites of honey bees in our gardens and will provide bee forage all season long. It is ideal for honey beekeepers and others interested in honey bee health. This mix can be used in garden beds, borders, and other maintained areas.
This flower mixture is for pollinator conservation in the eastern United States and southeast Canada. The western planting boundary would be a line straight south from the eastern borders of North and South Dakota. It contains a balanced blend of native annuals and perennials that provide nectar and pollen throughout the growing season. If you have specific mix requirements for pollinator conservation projects, please contact us regarding a custom mix for your area.
This flower mixture is for pollinator conservation in the western United States and southwest Canada. The eastern planting boundary would be a line straight south from the eastern borders of North and South Dakota. It contains a balanced blend of native annuals and perennials that provide nectar and pollen throughout the growing season. If you have specific mix requirements for pollinator habitat conservation projects, please contact us regarding a custom mix for your area.
These native seed mixes were specially designed to provide foraging and nesting resources for a variety of pollinators. They include wildflowers that provide nectar and pollen as well as bunch grasses that provide nesting habitat for bumble bees and other beneficial insects. They are appropriate for habitat restoration in the specified regions.
The High Plains Pollinator Mixture is for elevations below 6,000 feet in the following areas: southeastern Wyoming, southwestern South Dakota, western Nebraska, eastern Colorado, western Kansas, eastern New Mexico, western Oklahoma and northwestern Texas.
We provide two different mixes for the Southern Rocky Mountains: The Foothills Pollinator Mixture is for elevations between 6,000 and 8,000 feet, and the High Mountain Pollinator Mixture is for elevations between 8,000 and 10,000 feet. These mixes are appropriate for southern Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico.
High Plains Pollinator Mixture
Product Code: XSHP
(For elevations below 6,000 feet)
Foothills Pollinator Mixture
Product Code: XSFH
(For elevations between 6,000 & 8,000 feet)
High Mountain Pollinator Mixture
Product Code: XSHM
(For elevations between 8,000 & 10,000 feet)
This mixture of flowers will provide nectar to many species of butterflies in your area. Some of these plants will also provide food for butterfly larvae.
This mixture provides a season-long smorgasbord of flowers for hummingbirds. If hummingbirds naturally occur in your area, this annual and perennial mixture will attract them to your garden.