When most people think of bee keeping, jars of glistening honey come to mind. And while there’s no argument that honey is perhaps one of the sweetest and immediate rewards of bee keeping, it should be considered that bees and other pollinators provide benefits on such a larger scale. It’s important to support pollinators of all kinds and we can do this by providing a variety of housing to not only Honey Bees but other species of pollinators as well.
Here are some interesting facts about pollinators provided by The NAPPC (North American Polinator Protection Campaign) and the Pollinator Partnership.
“Why does pollination matter to us?
• Worldwide, roughly 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, fibers, spices, and medicines need to be pollinated by animals in order to produce the goods on which we depend.
• Foods and beverages produced with the help of pollinators include: apples, blueberries, chocolate, coffee, melons, peaches, potatoes, pumpkins, vanilla, almonds, and tequila.
• In the United States, pollination by honey bees, native bees, and other insects produces $40 billion worth of products annually.
Are pollinators in trouble?
• Worldwide there is disturbing evidence that pollinating animals have suffered from loss of habitat, chemical misuse, introduced and invasive plan and animal species, and diseases and parasites.
• Many pollinators are federally “listed species,” meaning that there is evidence of their disappearance in natural areas.
• The U.S. has lost over 50% of its managed honeybee colonies over the past 10 years.
• A lack of research has hindered our knowledge about the status of pollinators. The E.U. has been so concerned that they have invested over $20 million investigating the status of pollinators in Europe.”
So as you can see pollinators of all kinds are important to the us, our food production, the production of medicines and the natural balance of the food chain. For those of you who want to support pollinators, but perhaps don’t want to get involved in the whole honey extraction process, here are a few alternative hive options that might interest you.
Honey Bees Hives for Pollination and Conservation
Gaia Bees makes several alternative hives meant to support the health and well being of bees. “The designs are based on the needs of the bees and promote a sustainable and wholesome approach to apiculture.”
One design is the Sun Hive.
The sun hive is a type of skep hive. A skep is a bee hive made from coiled straw and stitched together using cane. Skeps used for honey production are now illegal because the hive must be destroyed to harvest the honey. But if you have no intention of harvesting from the bees, a Sun Hive like this one creates a wonderful, permanent home for a colony. Not only is this hive beautiful, but it mimics the natural hive structure that wild bees create.
Gaia holds classes to teach people how to make a sun hive. Visit their website for more information.
There are many species of insects that help pollination. Honey Bees get a lot of attention as pollinators because backyard bee keepers have the added benefit of the honey harvest. So it’s a dual purpose enterprise. But if you’re just looking for increased pollination Bumblebees out-pollinate their Honey Bee cousins.
“Bumblebees are excellent for tomato growers.
They visit twice as many flowers per minute as honeybees.
They carry heavier loads.
Their larger size means better contact with stamens and pistils.
They do well in greenhouses.
They stay active in harsher weather.
They cross pollinate fruit trees more easily because they don’t stay within a particular crop like honey bees.”
You can support bumble bees by installing a Bumblebee Hive like this one from Arbico Organics.
Or, you can make your own Bumblebee hive using a flower pot and a few items around the house. Find instructions at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.
I’ve personally used a Mason Bee hive in our garden. It’s interesting to see the little tubes fill up as the female does her job as nest keeper, and they are great pollinators!
Not only are Mason bees better at pollinating than Honey Bees, but they don’t sting! This is a great alternative for gardeners who have severe allergic reactions to bee stings.
There are many designs available for Mason Bee Hives. This one from Gardener’s Supply Company is cute and reasonably priced.
Simply hang in a sunny spot and reap the rewards of additional pollinators in your garden.
What are some things that you do in your own backyard to support pollinator?. Share it with the community by leaving a comment below, or visiting the Keeping Backyard Bees Facebook Page.