Woodapple Farms; April 16, 2018
To Bee or Not to Bee
Pollinators play a crucial role on our farm and we don’t want to take them for granted. It turns out there are a lot of pollinators on our farm, and not just of the honey bee variety. To be sure, we have plenty of honey bees and hope in the future to have more. We have been trying to attract a wild swarm the past couple of years using lures like lemongrass oil, but to no avail. So, we have ordered a European honey bee nuke with an Italian queen – more news on this soon we hope. But, we have also been blessed to have bumble bees, which are great “buzz pollinators”. of tomatoes, and I have been told effective pollinators for many crops including muscadine grapes. As a forester, I have walked many a forest and field and only once have I come across a bumble bee nest. But thankfully, there must be a bumble bee nest fairly close to our farm – or maybe on our farm and we haven’t discovered the nest just yet.
Both honey bees and bumble bees live in colonies, but increasingly the role of solitary bees is being encouraged and recognized. Honey bee populations have been suffering significant declines, the reasons complex and beyond the scope of this blog, so there is a renewed interest to document and understand the role of solitary bees for pollination of native plants and crops. We have employed mason bees and will next release leaf-cutter bees at Woodapple Farms in our small “high tunnel” greenhouse, which is screened to discourage other unwanted garden pests like stink bugs and tomato hornworms. We also practice renewable/sustainable agricultural and horticultural practices, hence do not use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Neonicotinoid pesticides are specifically linked to honey bee declines.
Certain species of flies, wasps, moths and birds also contribute to pollination of plants on our farm. Recently we noticed what appeared at first glance to be a bee, though was a fly species that mimics a bee in appearance. Paw paws are pollinated by flies and dragonfruit by moths, so we are pleased to host all types of pollinators.
We hope to learn more about our native pollinators through participating in citizen science projects such as the Native Bee Network and the Great Sunflower Project. We will circle back and let you know what we learn!