The average person probably doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about how much we really need pollinators, especially bees. Lucky for us – and the local fruits and vegetables we eat – ecologists and entomologists are on the case in Massachusetts. But why?
There are more than 300 species of bees native to Massachusetts that provide pollination services. While many other insects and animals pollinate, bees are the primary pollinators for many of our fruits and vegetables, but also for the plants that compose our natural ecosystems.
While honeybees are the most familiar species for most people, these non-native bees are actually not as efficient at pollinating many food crops and native plants. Also, honeybees have proven susceptible to diseases – Colony Collapse Disorder, for example. Maintaining a diversity of bee species and other pollinators is critical for also maintaining sustainable and resilient ecosystems and robust local food production.
Current threats to native bees include: the use of certain pesticides; pathogens brought in with domestic bees; habitat loss; and more systemic threats such as climate change and overabundant deer which alter ecosystems through their overbrowsing (read: eat!) of wildflowers and host plants needed by pollinators.
What can “bee” done?
The Trustees have launched several programs to encourage native bees to thrive. On Martha’s Vineyard, The Trustees are conducting the first Island-wide bee inventory. Understanding the current status of bees on the island is the first step in understanding the health of the bee community. More than 130 species of bees have been documented so far, including species not recorded in the northeast since the 1970s. Download the 2010 Report.
At Powisset Farm In Dover, The Trustees have planted “bees pastures” with help from the National Resources Conservation Service. These pastures are planted with a variety of native flowers and grasses to provide an abundant source of food and nesting habitat for native bees in close proximity to food crops.
At Bird Park in Walpole, we have reduced our lawn mowing and, in partnership with the local Middle School, are planting native wildflowers to help attract wildlife including pollinators in “restoration” areas.
So, that’s the most recent buzz on The Trustees and bees! Check out the links to the right to dig deeper into the topic and learn what you can do to help pollinators including what flowers to plant, how to make bee nesting boxes and learn about what pollinators might be visiting your yard.
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