Native pollinators are key to healthy ecosystems!
Did you know that honey bees are not native pollinators? In fact, they are introduced from Europe and followed the spread of agriculture around the world! While it is important to save our honey bees, they are managed by human caretakers (apiarists) as livestock and are doing better than our native pollinators. Fortunately, many of the efforts which help our native pollinators also help honey bees, so it is a win-win!
Native bees are especially important!
Native bees like carpenter bees, bumble bees, and solitary bees are crucial pollinators to many native plant species in Illinois. The rusty patched bumble bee is an endangered species that lives right here in Central Illinois!
Flowers save the day!
Every pollinator has preferred species of flowers, and some flowers don't use pollinators at all. Those that use pollinators rely on them to move their pollen from one plant to another so that seeds can be produced. Without these animal helpers, plants can't reproduce, and without these flowering plants, pollinators can't survive! Planting native species of flowers in your yard or in pots on your balcony is always the best way to go! A list of favored flowers and flowering trees and shrubs has been compiled for the rusty patched bumble bee, and these flower species are also used by many other native pollinators. Consider also letting some wildflowers such as dandelions (an important early spring nectar resource for pollinators!) and clover grow in your lawn. They'll liven up the expanse of green and help pollinators!
Plant for blooms in as many seasons as possible. Plant on flowers which bloom in early spring, late spring, through summer, early fall, and late fall.
Even if you live in a multi-story apartment, you can help! Bees have been seen flying 30 or more feet above the elevation of their hives. Setting out some pots of native flowers will give bees a welcomed nectar break as they fly around!
(Photograph credit: Corbyn Giers)
Did you know that flies (such as the pictured hover fly), wasps, butterflies, beetles, and even birds and mammals are important pollinators, too? All native species have their place and are worth conserving, even if they aren't as cute and fluffy as bees!
Learn about how National Pollinator Week is celebrated and what events are happening in Central Illinois
Learn about the Tallgrass Prairie in Illinois and the efforts being made to restore it, as well as how you can help! Native prairie is vital for conserving pollinators!
A partnership between citizen-scientists (you!) and professional scientists to educate about pollinators and obtain information on population status of honey bees and bumble bees.
More You Can Do!
Bee hotels must be placed and maintained properly!
Improperly built and poorly maintained bee hotels can kill bee larvae instead of helping them! Be sure to build with appropriate materials, place in good locations, and clean them annually to prevent parasites and disease. MSU has an excellent guide on building and managing bee hotels for wild bees!
Support small, local farmers!
Huge fields of a single crop are devastating for pollinators looking for food. Many of the large-scale commercial crops grown in Illinois are either wind pollinated (e.g. corn) and don't produce nectar or are self-pollinated (e.g. soybeans) and only provide limited resources for bees. Additionally, when these crops stop flowering, it leaves vast expanses with no food for pollinators! Each species of flowering plant only provides some of the nutrients needed by pollinators, so just like with us, a varied diet is important. Small, local farmers often raise a variety of crops, meaning there are nectar and pollen resources year-round for our pollinators.
Support prairie restoration efforts!
Illinois used to be primarily tallgrass prairie which, despite the name, included many native flowering plants crucial to pollinator survival. Of the approximately 22 million original acres of Illinois prairie, only 2500 acres remain.
Set out a 'bee bath'!
Many native bees need safe water and mud sources to drink and make nests. You can set out a shallow container of water with pebbles and twigs so the bees won't fall in and drown. Clean and replace materials as needed to avoid algae, and replace water every few days to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in the bee bath.
(Photograph credit: Corbyn Giers)