The morning after Elizabeth Vogt’s, PhD in Entymology, inspiring talk on “Pollinator Habitat Improvement – Bee Trees”, I shared the evening’s highlights with a co-worker over coffee in our office break room, how development & hybridization are the enemies of pollinators, which of the bee trees we already have on our property and where, how my husband and I plan to leave a 10′ x20′ section of the lawn natural so that the dandelions and other beneficial (but not noxious) weeds can take over, etc, etc. During the course of the conversation it dawned on me that she wasn’t really getting the importance of the topic so I finally said, “Can you imagine a world without fruit? Except for the occasional plant that can be wind pollinated, without pollinators in our world, fruit production would be a thing of the past and we all need to do our part to create habitat for the pollinators.” The Sunday morning previous to this conversation I had my own “awakening” as I witnessed the first of Hunters Mason Bees (male) at the entrance of Tube #1, “waiting for the first female to emerge” as Jerry Gehrke explained later in an email. And, a little later on, I observed several bees with these funny yellow saddle bags diligently poking around in the hyacinths in the courtyard.
So when Elizabeth showed the close-up photo of a bee and quizzed us about the name of said yellow saddle bags, I so wanted to know that name and what is was for . . . . Corbicula . . . pollen gathering basket! For two more boxes of Girl Scout Cookies, two more quiz words were added to our vocabulary: “monoecious” (my mind raced back to 1977 sitting in Botany 101 at the “other” OSU but could only come up with “single”) and “Melissopalynology” (failed again with “the study of honey”). “Both male and female flowers on the same plant” and “the study of pollen for the purposes of making honey” spouted confidently by two other club members took the spoils.
Elizabeth definitely peaked our interest. And we were ready to learn. Here are some of the highlights of her amazing talk:
- Bees are not the only pollinators. They make up roughly 47% of the pollinator world. Flies, beetles, butterflies, moths, and, yes, even ants make up the rest of the pollinator world. [Not counting Dr. Bob and his “puffer”.]
- Pollination occurs naturally as pollinators feed and gather food (nectar for carbohydrates, pollen for protein & fats, propolis & water). Flowers (especially open, flat ones) provide food, protection from rain & predators, rest areas & mating sites for the pollinators.
- In the PNW, there are (3) major nectar flows: May (maples), June/July (blackberries), Late August (knotweed). But, bees can be active even in January here, so how do the pollinators find food/shelter during the gap periods? See #8 and #9 below.
- The moving of male gametes from the anther of one flower to the stigma of another conspecific (same species) flower, i.e. pollination, by animals is a requirement of 90% of flowering plants (angiosperms).
- The most important pollinators are bees because of their need for flower-producing food, size, hairy body & pollen-carrying structures, long tongues, learning abilities, endothermy (maintaining favorable body temperature via internal bodily functions) and large numbers.
- The majority (75%) of bees are solitary, not social (i.e. hive-type) and live in individual nests tunneled into the soil. On Vashon, we have nine common solitary bees: yellow-faced, mining, sand, sweat, mason, leaf-cutting, digger, Carpenter and Bumble.
- Many plant lists from bee-loving websites contain noxious plants. Be cautious and cross check those lists. See the following links to King County’s Class A & B Noxious Weeds: http://www.kingcounty.gov/environment/animalsAndPlants/noxious-weeds/laws/class-a-list.aspx http://www.kingcounty.gov/environment/animalsAndPlants/noxious-weeds/laws/class-b-list.aspx
- Vashon’s Best Bee Trees (in chronological flowering order):
Note: Almost all do well in full sun with well drained soil except for the Dogwoods which like partial shade.
- Hazelnut, both native Beaked and European (flowers Jan-Mar)
- Autumn Cherry (flowers in Feb and again in autumn)
- Japanese Flowering Apricot (flowers in Feb)
- Pussy Willow (Salix sp.) (flowers in Feb)
- Red Alder (flowers Mar, monoecious)
- Cottonwood (flowers early spring, dioecious, i.e. separate male & female plants)
- Vine Maples (flowers Mar-May)
- Broad Leaf Maple (flowers Mar-May)
- Magnolias: Saucer, Star and Southern (flowers in March)
- Dogwoods: Eastern, Pacific and Korean (flowers Apr-Jun, likes partial sun, Korean is anthracnose resistant.)
- Empress Tree (flowers Apr-May, fastest growing tree in the world, up to 40’ in one year)
- English Laurel (but is noxious)
- Golden Chain Tree (flowers May-Jun)
- Hawthorn and Black Hawthorne (but Dr. Bob pointed out that they are secondary apple maggot hosts)
- Sweet Bay (flowers May)
- European Mountainash (flowers May-Jun)
- Catalpa (flowers May-Jun)
- Black Locust (flowers May-Jun)
- Privet or Ligustrum (flowers May-Jun)
- Tulip Poplar (drought tolerant, flowers Jun-July)
- Littleleaf Linden (important nectar source, flowers late Jun-July)
- Sourwood (important nectar source, flowers Jun-July)
- Mimosa (but is noxious)
- Chaste Tree (flowers in summer)
- Strawberry Tree (important nectar source, flowers late summer)
9. Vashon’s Best Understory Plants for Bees:
- February: Winter Heathers, Pieris
- March: Oregon Grape, Chickweed, Overwintered (garden) plants
- April: Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Lavender, Oregano, Flowering Currants, Dandelions
- May: Mustards, Clovers, Chives, Snowberries
- June: Mints, Hyssop, Borage, Calendula
- July: Buckwheat, Squashes
- August: Lemon Balm, Echinaceas, Salvia, Shasta Daisies, Rudbekia
- September: Sunflowers, Joe Pye Weed, Lobelia, Artichokes, Yarrow
Following are all of the hand-outs from the meeting.