Master Gardner Sue Morris: Help Minnesota's bee population by following these gardening tips
We keep hearing about the decline in bee population these days. The University of Minnesota has a Bee Lab and they have some simple suggestions for aiding the bee population in your garden.
Did you know there are 470 bee species in Minnesota? Ninety of these species nest in cavities made in stems or wood. For this reason, it’s a good practice not to cut flower stalks to the ground in the fall when cleaning up your flower bed.
These stalks give bees a good place to survive the winter. Bees also need a variety of other resources such as leaves, mud, plant hair and resin to build successful nests.
The stems you want to leave should have diameters from 1/8 to 5/16 of an inch. This spring when you are cutting back dead flower stalks, leave some stubble of varying height, 8 to 24 inches, to provide nest cavities. The new growth of the perennial will hide the stem stubble.
Adult bees emerge and start nests in newly cut dead stems or in naturally occurring open stems. Daylily stems are perfect for this effort. To deter parasites, don’t clump or bundle stems. Provide open water for mud-building bees.
It is recommended to leave the stems through summer, winter and at least the first half of a second summer. Bees use vertical, horizontal or angled stems. You will need to protect these plants from pesticide exposure.
Bee flowers provide nectar and pollen for bees. They obtain all their carbohydrates from floral nectar and all their protein from the pollen. It is important when planning a pollinator garden to provide a diverse group of blooming flowers and make sure something is blooming through the whole growing season.
This means annuals would be great to plant along with perennials as the flowering season for perennials is limited to a short period of time. And to keep these plants free of pesticides, fungicides and insecticides.
A good practice is to observe which flowering plants are attracting the most pollinators and the most different types of pollinators.
Don’t forget that flowering lawn weeds aren’t all bad — as they provide nutrients for the bees as well. At least that is what I tell people when they comment on the amount of dandelions I have blooming every spring on my farm.
I also have a lot of white clover in the lawn and around the outbuildings. Don’t forget wild violets and birds foot trefoil either. (I have noticed a lot of birds foot trefoil planted in road ditches). These so-called weeds may be better adapted than turfgrasses to difficult site conditions like compacted soil, drought, flooding and shade.
Master Gardener Sue Morris has been writing this column since 1991 for Kandiyohi County newspapers. Morris has been certified through the University of Minnesota as a gardening and horticulture expert since 1983. She lives in Kandiyohi County.