Pollinators Support Biodiversity

Biodiversity is the variety of life.  It showcases the relationships between all life forms on Earth.  It is the web of life, connecting all life on Earth in an interdependent web of function, purpose, and necessity.   It can be a protective mechanism against catastrophic failure of life.

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Biodiversity provides:

A wide array of foods and materials, which contributes to the survival of all.  Examples include: medicines derived from plants; 7000 species of plants are also food sources for other species.

Genetic diversity, which defends against diseases and pests.

Example:  Monoculture crops are not diverse, genetically or otherwise,  and are thus             susceptible to influxes of pests and disease, which is one reason why farmers of these crops are so dependent on chemicals to sustain crops. Planting hedgerows with a variety of plants encourages natural pest control for crops via predatory insects and birds.

Ecological services, which are functions performed by many species that result in sustaining life on Earth, and are a supported by biodiversity. Within each ecological service there are many species at play.

Some examples of ecological services are:

Decomposition of waste

       Water purification

       Pest control

       Flood moderation

       Soil fertility

       Pollination

Adaptability to disturbances, which is achieved by a concerted effort of many life forms repairing the damage done by a natural disaster, or another form of disturbance.

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Every piece of every ecosystem is important and each piece depends on the other pieces. We, as humans, are part of a planet-wide ecosystem, and we depend on many different systems for our survival.  One extremely important web we depend on is that of the pollinators.

Pollination supports biodiversity!  It is a mutually beneficial relationship between the pollinator and the pollinated. One without the other would be catastrophic. Pollination supports diversity of plants, as well as the animals that feed on those plants.  This beneficial relationship reaches broadly to birds, small mammals, large mammals, other insects, and us!  If this relationship were lost, many ecosystems would implode.

Pollinators contribute to biodiversity and life on Earth in ways that are significant to every ecosystem existing today.  Roughly 90 % of all flowering plant species are specialized for animal-assisted pollination!  7000 plant species are a form of food for other species.  Many of these flowering plants develop food only as a result of visiting pollinators, and this food supports the lives of countless species, including humans!  The disappearance of pollinators would inflict catastrophic consequences on the entire planet.

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The diversity of pollinators alone is staggering!  There are 20,000 bee species accounted for on Earth, and there are likely more. This number does not account for the hundreds of thousands of species of flies, moths, butterflies, birds, bats, and beetles who also pollinate flowering plants.

Our pollinators are struggling due to habitat loss.  The US alone hosts 40 million acres of turf, which useless to supporting biodiversity (The Humane Gardener). Some populations of butterflies have declined as much as 90%!  Honeybee colony losses are at an all time high!  What do you think that means for our native bee species?  I can tell you it isn’t good.  The struggle is due to: loss of habitat, lack of food, and pesticide use.  

The fact that pollinators are broadly struggling threatens the balance of biodiversity, and life on Earth!  

You can help by doing the following: add back habitat (shelter, food, and water), plant flowering plants, STOP the use of all pesticides (including: insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides), and teach future generations how to coexist.

 

Recognizing Bees at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is such a wonderful time for my family. We enjoy the traditional recipes, and one of our favorites is pumpkin pie, and pretty much anything pumpkin! The trouble is, you can’t have the pumpkin without the bees.

Pumpkins begin as yellow flowers, such as the one below, and depend on bee pollination (read more about squash pollination here). Most specifically, squash bee pollination.  Each plant hosts male and female flowers.  The male flowers have both nectar and pollen, while the female flowers carry primarily nectar.  Squash bees visit both to get a complete diet, and in doing so, they cross pollinate the pumpkin flowers, which leads to the birth of a pumpkin!

Bees need both nectar and pollen to survive; flowers need bees to become fruit; humans eat whatever fruit results.  Our survival is interconnected!

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Pumpkin flower

Squash bees are native solitary bees, meaning they nest alone, but may be next door to many other independent squash bee nests.  Squash bees depend predominantly on squash pollen and nectar.  So, naturally, they are the bees pumpkin flowers depend most heavily on to become pumpkins!  I have observed squash bees face down in squash blooms for minutes at a time, ignoring my presence, indulging in what must be top shelf nectar. Watch them in action here!

Squash bee (Peponapis)-look at all that pollen on her legs!

Squash bees (follow this link to read more about squash bees) match their life cycle with the blooming cycle of squash plants, and will even go so far as to build their nests under squash plants.  This is risky business, as squash fields and gardens are cleared and tilled at every season’s end.  This practice, if done deeper than 20″, kills the developing brood located under many of the shriveled up squash plants.  A good solution might be to designate a plot of squash plants that will go untilled and left until spring.  This way the bee population is preserved, and maybe even increased the following year. This is a practice easily done in our own yards, thus building more much needed habitat for native bees!

Check out this video of hide and seed with a male squash bee!

Wild bees play a larger role in our survival than you might think.  Honeybees are recognized because they are managed for agriculture, and they provide a sweet treat, but honeybees have been taking center stage!  Wild bees consist of thousands of different species, and are often excellent pollinators, better than honeybees, but they do not make honey, making them of quiet importance.  Wild bees are a necessary support system for the planet’s pollination needs, and this includes food production.  The more we can do to help all bees and all pollinators, the more we are helping our own survival.

The topic of bee conservation doesn’t need to end at the end of the growing season.  Food is a topic of never-ending  importance, traversing across all seasons, and bees help us get the majority of our important, nutrient rich foods.  The beauty of wild bees is you don’t need to suit up, or purchase an expensive box to house them, you simply need to plant a variety of native flowering plants, and provide nesting options in your yard.  Bees need our help to bounce back and begin thriving again.

Follow these simple steps to do your part in saving all of our bees:

  1. Choose organic (and by this, I mean pesticide free) produce as often as you can.
  2. Don’t use pesticides, or other chemicals that might harm bees or their habitat requirements.
  3. Plant lots of native, organic flowering plants every year, and watch your yard come to life!
  4. Don’t forget to spread the word this Thanksgiving!

Thank you for joining this incredibly important movement!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Jessica

 

 

The Hungry Honeybee: A Children’s Book

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My book is finally up for sale on Amazon!  I wrote and illustrated this children’s book with educating youth about how to care for bees in mind.  It is written for preschool up through elementary age groups, and it comes with a substantial packet of wildflower seeds fit to feed a multitude of pollinators! Kids will get a kick out of this gift set.  Follow this link to get yours today!  If you’d like to help us rank well on Amazon, first go to Amazon, then type in The Hungry Honeybee in the search browser, and then my book will pop up for you to click on.  This helps us get more exposure on Amazon, and I do thank you in advance for doing it this way, as it takes a little more of your time:)  I hope you enjoy it!!

Cheers to the movement to save our bees!

Jessica

 

 

Sunflowers: Good for Bees and Birds

This article is applicable every year, and sunflowers never get old!

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Photo taken by: Jessica Goldstrohm

Sunflowers are an icon of summer, and sometimes a beautiful centerpiece in a fall bouquet.  Our eyes are captivated by their varieties and astonishing heights they can reach in a growing season. We enjoy their seeds at baseball games, and their oil in salad dressing, but there is more to the story of the sunflower that includes the lives of bees, and birds.

The sunflower blooms do not appear until the middle of summer, and will continue to bloom into the fall months.  Each flower is host to as many as 2000 individual flowers called florets.  Sunflowers are adorned with copious amounts of pollen, and deep within each floret is a tasty drink of nectar for any interested visitors.  If you look closely at the photo above, you will see yellow dust all over the bottom petals!

Pollen is half of the reproductive equation in flowers, and is produced on the male part of the flower, the anthers.  The other half is the egg, which lies deep within the female part of the flower, the ovary at the base of the stigma.  Interestingly, the sunflower has evolved to display anthers with pollen on them first, sans the stigma of the flower.  Oh, and let’s not forget that this “one” sunflower contains up to 2000 individual flowers, each containing both male and female parts.  So, each floret stands the chance of becoming an individual seed capable of growing into another sunflower with 2000 more florets!  This is a seed producing machine!

Who is responsible for transferring the pollen to the right place at the right time? Bees!

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Photos taken by: Jessica Goldstrohm

Bees are after a vegan meal consisting of nectar, first and foremost, and then pollen.  As they traverse across the sunflower bees transfer pollen from florets with pollen baring anthers to florets baring open stigmatic structures ready to pick up pollen.  If you look closely at the top photo of the sunflower with a pollen-caked bumblebee snacking the nectar in each floret, you can easily recognize that the bee is very effective at picking up pollen and transferring it to just the right spot.  The bees do not know that their visits to flowers results in the plant’s replication; they are really only there to feed.  The middle photo shows a green sweat bee feeding on the florets of the sunflower, and you can really see where the anthers (yellow dots) are, and where the stigmatic structures are (on the periphery of the yellow dots).  The anthers are the first to appear in this process, while the stigmatic structures show up after, and this order of events prevents self-pollination of the plant, which results in fewer seeds and oil of lesser quality.

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Photo taken by: Jessica Goldstrohm

So, the bees spend their time traversing and reveling in the nectar provisions of the sunflower from mid-summer into the fall, and then something remarkable happens.  The flower goes from this beautiful, bright bloom like the one above, to this…

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And what was once covered in pollen and filled with nectar becomes a seed-filled delight for birds! Each seed is full of protein and fat for birds, and other interested visitors.

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All photos taken by: Jessica Goldstrohm

What started out as a wonderful provision for bees became a delicious meal for birds, because each piece fed the other. The flower fed the bees, the bees transformed the flowers into seeds, and the birds enjoyed their feeds!  What a lesson of interconnectedness this is.

Sunflowers are native to North America and grow well everywhere! Consider adding them to your yard next spring so you can feed both bees and birds, and maybe you’d like a taste of the sunflower seeds too!

Here are some wonderful resources on all things Sunflower:

History of the Sunflower

Following the SUN

Plant Them

Sunflowers

Thank you for joining the movement to save our bees!  What’s good for the bees is also good for the birds!

 

 

 

March of the BEES

Hello all of you wonderful waggling bee fans! We are planning to walk in the Highlands Ranch, CO 4th of July parade, and we would LOVE more walkers with us dressed as bees and flowers! We want to spread the word about bees and how to bee heroic! If you are interested, please email me at thebeeswaggle@gmail.com and put “4th of July Parade” in the subject line. I will get you in the loop with details of where to meet and all that good stuff! I hope to see lots of interest!IMG_3414.JPG

Bees and Holly

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Bees bring holly berries through pollination! What a great story to hang on your holiday tree!

‘Tis the season to show our loved ones our love by showing up to holiday parties, exchanging gifts, or simply exchanging hugs and gratitude.  I am so very grateful for all of my loved ones, and can’t imagine a life without them, and this includes the bees of our planet, of course.

2016 has been a year of expanding The Bees Waggle.  We have worked to develop new products, Jessica has written a children’s book, and she even managed to write up two school curriculums!  The Bees Waggle is now part of two non-profit organizations in Colorado: People and Pollinators Action Network (PPAN) and Bee Safe Boulder.  The opportunities have blossomed this year, and we are very grateful for everything!  We thank all of you for supporting our small business centered around conservation of bees.  We hope to impress you more in 2017 with the new ventures we have planned.  Well, that’s enough about us, what about bees?

One very important icon of this season is holly berries, and guess what, bees bring holly berries into existence!

Holly berries begin as small white flowers awaiting pollination via insects.  Bees are always searching for the complete meal flowers contain, consisting of both pollen (protein packed), and nectar (simple carbohydrates).

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Holly flowers are no exception to this rule, so bees visit them, and in doing so, pollinate these flowers, thus transforming them into berries!

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Birds and other species then feed on these berries, thanks to the work of bees.  We sometimes use holly to decorate for the holidays, or simply plant it, in the form of bushes or trees, in our yards and appreciate the red and green combination come fall.

Just when you think a bee’s job is limited to the warm months of the year, here comes another lesson of interconnectedness.  img_4929A bee’s job is evidenced throughout the seasons, and brings good things to many different species of animals! We should take care to preserve their existence in return! 

Thank you for joining the movement to save our bees, both native and honey!

Happy Holidays from all of us at The Bees Waggle!