Honey bee declines are well documented. Concern for honey bees is common, but rarely does anyone mention concern for native pollinators. Native pollinators face many of the same challenges that play a role in honey bee decline, including loss of habitat, changes in food availability due to changes in weather patterns, pesticides and herbicides. Native pollinators are more adapted to our Nevada climate and are often better pollinators of fruits and vegetables. You can participate in helping all pollinators by creating landscapes that provide food and habitat for them.
Native pollinators need nectar and pollen, like honey bees. Plan your flower and vegetable gardens so that you have a constant source of nectar and pollen. By choosing plants that continuously flower, like sage, mints and penstemon, pollinators will always have a nectar source. You can also plant short-lived blooming plants and overlap their seasonal blooms. Fruit trees bloom in the spring, producing a huge nectar and pollen source. Annoying dandelions are a great nectar and pollen source. Garden vegetables like indeterminate tomato plants and squashes flower throughout the summer. Fall blooming plants include rabbit brush and sage. Lawns can also be a good source of nectar when clovers and other lawn weeds are present. Mow the lawn higher to allow more flowering plants while reducing the amount of water your lawn needs to be healthy. Using these tips, pollinators will always find food in your yard.
Native pollinators do not live in hives. Native bees create a wide range of nests out of materials in your lawn and garden. Leaf cutter bees cut pieces of leaf from your plants to build walls. Bumblebees and mason bees build mud nests. Other bees nest in hollow plant stems or tunnels in sand. To help native pollinators build nests, have a cleared soil patch that remains moist. Do not spray pesticides on the foliage of ornamental plants. Remember that those perfect, round holes in the leaves mean a native bee is building nests with them. Do not disturb areas where you notice pollinator activity. By creating the right habitat, pollinators will soon make your yard their home.
For an opportunity to learn more about pollinator and beneficial insects as well as decomposer and pest insects, check out our “Grow Your Own, Nevada!” program. The program is a series of eight gardening workshops held 6-8 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays, May 3 through May 26.
Workshop topics include:
- 5/3- Warm-Season Vegetable Gardening
- 5/5- Gardening in Nevada’s Soils
- 5/10- Know Nevada Insects: Decomposers & Pests
- 5/12- Know Nevada Insects: Pollinators & Beneficials
- 5/17- Tomatoes 101
- 5/19- Composting Made Easy
- 5/24- Preserving the Harvest: Hot-Water Canning
- 5/26- Seed Saving
Classes are held live in Reno and via videoconference to participating sites statewide. Reno attendees can register online at www.growyourownnevada.com. To attend in another location, contact your local Cooperative Extension office.
Joy Paterson is the Lyon County Extension Educator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Have plant questions? Contact a master gardener at 775-336-0265 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.growyourownnevada.com. For information on drought, visit www.livingwithdrought.com.