In my quest to understand what it takes to grow healthy, high yielding plants in Northern Minnesota, I discovered just how important pollination is. Without getting into too much science, if there were no wind or insects, we wouldn’t have much for green on this planet, and even less to eat. I’m sure a great many of you have heard the recent “buzz” on bees and other pollinators, and the trouble they are in. If not, now’s the time to really take a minute to understand what’s happening. Many factors are to blame for the lack of pollinators in our landscapes, and now for the first time ever, a bumble bee, the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee is on the endangered species list. This bee is native to our area, though their populations seem to “bee” few and far between around here. Habitat loss, pesticides, less diversity in vegetation, and the spread of pest and diseases are just a few of the hurdles pollinating insects are up against. It takes many kinds of bees to pollinate crops, and they are also crucial to the survival of many native plants. Honey beekeeping has become something I truly adore, but I have come to the realization that it’s nothing short of challenging here. Honeybees are not native to our area, though they have been here long enough to stake their claim. We have bred them to withstand a great many climates, and when all the right factors lineup, we can get them to survive our cold harsh winters. When I began, I had the idea that by increasing the bees around our property, which were comparably lacking to when I was a kid, surly I would increase plant yields. Though I can not prove for sure with statistical evidence that the hives on our property have helped in having more produce to harvest, I can say that our property continues to provide more and more food for both honey bees and native bees, which hopefully is a win win. In the last several years I have added many more native plants to our gardens and surrounding property.
In order to help provide nesting and foraging space, we have created a “No Mow” zone where native grasses and wildflowers can flourish. I also leave a couple old wood piles, and some bare soil spaces as possible nesting spaces for the bees. In 2017 I planted over 30 pollinator friendly trees including apple trees, elderberry, wild plum and highbush cranberry. This year we are set to add at least 40 more pollinator friendly trees and shrubs. We are looking at maples, black chokeberry, hazelnut, along with more apple and berry varieties. By providing the bees with more foraging options, this should, intern provide us with more food. Without our gardens buzzing with insects, especially bees, we would fail to have beautiful varieties of plants, along with a great many amenities we come to take for granted everyday. Coffee, chocolate, cotton and many of your favorite fruits and vegetables are only a few of the things you should thank the bees for.