Bees pollinate the plants that provide a third of our food supply

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Guess what? August 20 is National Bee Day and World Bee Day, and September is National Honey Month.

So, let’s dive into the world of bees to be prepared.

If you’re lucky, there are bees buzzing all around your garden right now, and anyone growing vegetables should make sure they attract bees to their garden.

Did you know that around 90 food crops are pollinated by insects, mainly bees?

Thanks to bees, we can enjoy almonds, apples, citrus fruits, avocados, mangoes, plums, peaches, pumpkins, squash, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and watermelons, to name a few. name a few. If you include crops used for livestock feed, a third of our food supply depends on flowers pollinated by bees.

In addition to their pollination services, bees are also associated with honey.

Bees collect nectar from flowers and then process the nectar into honey. Not only is honey delicious, but it also offers many health benefits. For more information on this topic, see our newsletter, Honey and Its Uses at edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/aa154.

Another type of bee that is managed for its pollination services is the bumblebee. In Florida we have five native species. The bumblebee provides pollination services to field and greenhouse crops. An easy way to attract bumblebees to your garden is to plant perennial African blue basil.

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There are also more than 315 species of wild bees in Florida that play a role in pollinating agricultural crops and flowering plants in natural areas and managed landscapes. These include miner bees, mason bees, sweat bees, leafcutter bees, and carpenter bees.

These bees are efficient pollinators and often pollinate most of our crops.

Bumblebees, digger bees, and sweat bees make up the bulk of solitary bees in most parts of the state. Solitary bees offer many advantages over honeybees, as they fly faster, pollinate more plants, and generally don’t sting because they don’t live in a colony to defend. They work on cloudy days, become active earlier in the morning and work later in the afternoon than bees.

To support bees, we need to provide nesting habitats, stop using harmful pesticides, and provide suitable nectar plants.

Here are some suggestions for increasing your native bee populations:

Start by setting aside undisturbed areas around your garden. Most bees prefer to nest in dry places and like a sunny spot.

For ground-nesting bees, this means an undisturbed patch of soil in a sunny spot. For bees nesting in wood or stems, this means piles of bamboo sections, branches, hollow reeds or untreated wooden nesting blocks.

The second step is to reduce the use of harmful pesticides. The intensive use of pesticides not only on agricultural land but also in our landscapes has contributed to the loss of many colonies of bees and other pollinators.

Even some natural herbicides and botanical insecticides can harm bees. To protect the bees, all pesticides should be applied in the early evening when the bees are in their hive or nest.

Next, provide food for your pollinators by planting the right nectar-rich plants. Some good bee plants include our native goldenrod, sunflowers, false goldenasters, goldenaster (Chrysopsis), coreopsis, silkgrass (Pityopsis), coneflower (Rudbeckia), Eurasian aster fields, lemon balm, calendula, daisies, mints, nasturtiums, clover, salvias and sweet lavender.

Native bees can be divided into two main groups: soil dwellers and wood dwellers.

Soil bees include bumblebees, digger bees, suicidal bees, and squash bees.

Bumblebees are hard workers who work faster than honey bees and can be outdoors in cooler temperatures.

Bumblebees pollinate many of our most common vegetables like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, melons, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries.

Squash bees only visit squash, pumpkin, and squash flowers. They are also early risers and will visit all the squash/pumpkin/gourd flowers in the morning before the flowers close around noon.

Bees that live underground prefer dry, south-facing, sandy banks devoid of vegetation, the most important features being sunny and dry.

Wood dwellers include our leaf cutters and carpenter bees.

Leafcutter bees like the flowers of legumes, but will pollinate other crops like carrots. They are most active when temperatures are above 70 degrees. They are also very efficient pollinators, so it takes far fewer leafcutter bees to pollinate the flowers.

Carpenter bees are among the largest bees and prefer to create holes in soft woods like pine. They will generally avoid painted or bark-covered wood. The entrance to their nest will be a ½” diameter hole.

Carpenter bees pollinate several crops such as passion fruit, blackberries, corn, pepper and green beans.

To celebrate National Bee Day, the Brevard Backyard Beekeepers Club will be hosting an event at our office at 3695 Lake Drive in Cocoa on Saturday, August 20. Enjoy lectures, demonstrations, food, music, and a variety of activities from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

I’ll be presenting a free talk on Go Native for pollinators from 9:30-10am and there will also be activities for kids, honey for sale (of course), and lots more to provide a fun and educational Saturday for kids. entire family.

Sally Scalera is an Urban Horticulture Officer and Master Gardener Coordinator for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Email sasc@ufl.edu.

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