Friday, June 21, 2013

Friends of the Flowers

Most people think of yellow jackets and hornets when they see bees, but before you run in fear or take out the insecticide, take a moment to learn about the many more pollinators out there that are essential to food production AND rarely sting! (Don't worry -- pictures not to scale!)

According to Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, "Native bugs met North America's pollination needs long before Europeans imported honeybees. To entice them, start by planting native species: After all, local flora attract local fauna. In honor of National Pollinator Week, check out some pollinator favorites below!

1. Common Eastern bumblebee // Bombus impatiens
Traits: Large, fuzzy, with yellow or orange and black bands. Females' legs have pollen baskets. Noisy.
Favorite flowers: Clover, rosemary, sunflower, willow.
Fun fact: They rest on leaves' undersides.

2. Native bee // 4,000+ species
Traits: Vary by species.
Favorite flowers: Not picky; they love anise hyssop, blazing star and fruit crops.
Fun fact: They don't live in large hives, are solitary and often burrow underground.

3. Pollen wasp // Pseudomasaris genus
Traits: Clubbed antennae.
Favorite flowers: Western wildflowers such as beard-tongue and scorpionweed.
Fun fact: They're vegetarians! Unlike other wasps, they feed their young pollen instead of critters like spiders and insects.

4. European honeybee // Apis mellifera
Traits: Fuzzy, about a half-inch long, smaller than the bumblebee.
Favorite flowers: Sage, verbascum, lemon balm.
Fun fact: After they use their stingers, they die. Need a hand with pollination from native bees, due to their declining population.

5. Hoverfly // Syriphidae family
Traits: Resemble yellow jackets. Can hover and dart forward and backward quickly.
Favorite flowers: Yarrow, coyote brush, buckwheat, feverfew, wild mustard.
Fun fact: Their larvae often prey on aphids and other pests.

6. Bee fly // Bombylidae family
Traits: Fuzzy like bumblebees, but with two wings (rather than four) and large, faceted fly eyes.
Favorite flowers: Desert and alpine flora, such as scrub mint and penstemon.
Fun fact: Females lay eggs in other bees' nests.

7. Drone fly // Erisalis tenax 
Traits: Like stingerless honeybees, these hoverflies have only one pair of wings and an hourglass pattern.
Favorite flowers: Alyssum, cosmos, Queen Anne's lace, statice, lupine.
Fun fact: They mimic bees by shuttling between flowers.

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