Forage is to bees what porridge is to us, food.
Forage is the technical term for flowers. Flowers contain a complete meal to whomever will dine at their beautiful tables of color. Pollen provides a complete protein enriched bite, while nectar provides a rush of carbohydrates ready for immediate energy.
Flowers add such beauty to any landscape, and it’s time we plant more in our own yards. They not only add beauty, but they sustain the extremely important lives of pollinators.
This truly is the simplest, most “hands-off” way to help the plight of pollinators. In doing so you may become a native beekeeper by default, because native bees nest close to their food sources, and how lucky would you be to benefit from the pollination bounty as a result!
Native bees have taken the back seat to the honeybees, but they are extremely important and are just as in danger as honeybees. They don’t make honey, so we haven’t taken to “keeping” them, because “what’s in it for us?”
Well, I will tell you this, our livelihood is what’s in it for us, and it’s the easiest “beekeeping” you’ll ever experience!!
Native bees will roam between 200 ft – 15o0 ft, with exception to bumblebees who roam one mile and beyond, to find flowers to feed on. This means that if you see some of these native bees foraging in your yard, they are likely nesting there too, and guess what? All you needed to do was plant flowers!
The distance a bee travels is largely based on its size. The smallest bee family, Perdita measures from under 0.1-0.5 inches long!! Perdita will travel no further than 200 ft to forage. 200 ft doesn’t seem far to us, but to these little bees, it’s an amazing feat and they do it many times each day to collect enough pollen and nectar for their eggs!
The larger native bees, with exception to the bumblebees, measure between 0.5-1 inch in length, and travel between 600-1500 ft. 1500 ft is like flying over four football fields one way, just to get food. Now imagine being only 1 inch long and flying your little wings that distance to get groceries, and not just once each day, but multiple times! Are you impressed? I am! I think one trip to the grocery store in my car one time each week is plenty, and that takes minimal energy stores from me. I cannot imagine what these bees must burn in calories each day!
Bumblebees measure between 0.5-1 inch in length, and can travel 1 mile and more when forced to do so. They are much bigger so they are better at covering greater distances. However, they would likely prefer a food source in close proximity to their nest.
The primary goal of all native bees is to raise as many young as possible from spring to fall. So, as you can imagine, the greater the distance a bee must travel to get pollen and nectar, the more time is spent flying to and from the source, and less time is spent laying more eggs and forming bigger nests. This correlates the number of bees raised in a season with the number of flowers visited each day, by each bee, in that season. Ideally, native bees are able to find good nesting sites next to excellent food sources, thus increasing the number of bees raised in a season.
This is where we come in!
The most important step to take is to plant more flowers, and native flowers are ideal as they take less effort from you and the environment to sustain their lives. Native bees are also more familiar with native flowering plants. Be absolutely certain the flowering plants you plant are organic and raised without any harsh chemicals. We don’t want to provide poisonous food sources to bees (and any other pollinators who will frequent your flower-ful yard).
Bees will not come unless you build a healthy food source first! So, get your pen and paper out and begin plotting where you will add flowers to your yard this spring!
Next week I will talk about creating a good variety of nesting sites for all the 4000 species of native bees in North America!
Thank you for joining this very important movement to save our bees!