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Pacific NW Native Pollinators

We enjoy the presence of a wide variety of native bees and other non-bee pollinators in the Pacific NW.

Native Bees

Our native bees play an essential role in pollination. For example, mason bees are better pollinators than honey bees. Two mason bees can pollinate 25 pounds of fruit. But 120 honey bees are needed to duplicate that endeavor.

Most native bees live alone without large hives. They make nests in the ground, occupy hollows and holes that they find or create, and are generally extremely gentle.

Mason bees prefer a hole about 6-7" deep and about 8mm in diameter. The females lay 25-35 eggs, each sealed in a little cell with pollen available for their food. She tends to lay eggs of future females at the back of each hole, and the males at the front. Over the summer the eggs hatch, become larva and gradually develop into tiny bees inside waterproof caccoons. Mason beekeepers harvest the caccoons in the fall, keep them cool (about 35-39 degrees) and moist (about 60-70% humidity) over the winter and release them in the spring. When harvested they need to be culled carefully to avoid spread of disease and preditors. See an excellent guide to cleaning and storing mason bees.

Leafcutter bees prefer holes a little smaller in diameter. They cut circular or semi-circular holes in leaves to form cells where females lay their eggs. Other native pollinator bees include black tail bumble bee, fuzzy-horned bumble bee, yellow-faced bumble bee, California bumble bees, and sweat bees. The Washington Arboretum Foundation provides excellent info on these valuable pollinators.

Other Pollinators

Butterflies are not particularly effective pollinators, however they do play an important role in pollination. Other pollinators include moths, flies, beetles, wasps, and even small mammals, and birds.

Supporting Pollinators

Most people realize that growing lots of flowering plants, especially native plants is crucial to support pollinating insects. What many people do not realize is that the typical beautiful green lawn is basically an insect desert. Dandelions are much appreciated by pollinating bees, but we poison the plants and remove them from our yards. Considering developing your lawn as a pollinator-friendly expance by adding white clover, creeping thyme, short white English daisies, and other little flowering plants that will reflower all summer after being mowed. Considering adding part of your lawn into an area that you only mow once or twice a year for taller native forbs and grasses. One plus is that these taller areas do not require as much, if any, irrigation. Here's a guide to creating pollinator habitat.

Want Some Help?

If you'd like to improve your pollinator habitat yourself (without calling in a major landscaping project) we'll be happy to visit your yard and make suggestions. You may already be much further along the path of supporting pollinators than you realize.

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