I realized that I had posted about this new publication on Twitter, but not here–this must be remedied ASAP!
A beautiful publication was recently released by the USDA Forest Service and the Pollinator Partnership:
Bee Basics: An Introduction to Our Native Bees
By Beatriz Moisset and Stephen Buchmann.
“The full-color 40 page booklet is jam-packed with information about how representative bees of 3,500 species inhabiting the US and bordering areas make a living, which flowers they visit, whether they nest underground or in hollow stems or wood. The diversity of bees is examined along with notes on their wasp ancestry. The lives of leafcutter, mason, bumble bees, miners and others is explored…. Tips for easy things gardeners, home owners and naturalists can do to protect and conserve bees and their flowers are given. “
It is about as nice an introduction to basic bee biology as you could ask for, with the bonus of beautiful artwork. If you haven’t downloaded your free copy of the PDF, get with the clicking!!
Once again, It’s time to celebrate the little animals that…facilitate plant sex by moving plant sperm around.
I’ve discovered over time that a lot of people don’t actually know what pollination is, other than it’s something that’s needed to get fruit. That’s certainly true; apples, bananas, blueberries, melons, peaches, pumpkins, almonds, and a whole bunch of other plants need to be pollinated for us to get the food we like.
That’s the what of pollination. But the WHY seems to be left out. Plants need lovin’ too, and the options for them to get their freak on are somewhat limited. It’s tough to “throw a leg over” when you don’t actually have any legs.
Pollination = sex for plants. There. I’ve said it.
Sure, you can toss your pollen out on the wind and hope it lands in the right place. And for a lot of plants, evergreens in particular, this works just fine. Most spring days my car looks like there was a pine tree bukakke fest.
That methodology results in a lot of wasted gametes (plant sperm) though, so for nearly all flowering plants, insects or other pollinators are needed for plant nookie. Think of bees and other pollinators as little flying plant wangs.
Most flowers contain both male and female sexual parts, and while plants can self-pollinate, it’s a lot more
enjoyable productive to have a second (or third…or fourth…) party involved. Cross-pollination also reduces inbreeding.
Plants attract insect pollinators with lovely colorful displays, special smells, and gifts of nectar or extra pollen that makes a nice snack. And in return plants receive a sort of sexual courier service. This partnership has been going on for over 100 million years, and has resulted in amazing modifications in both plants and animals.
Without pollinators, some of the finest things in life would not exist:
All brought to you by a bug-facilitated bonk.
The Xerces Society has many free and wonderful publications on how to plant habitat for pollinators. Why not check those out and establish a horizontal hula zone in your backyard? And don’t forget to give your sweetheart a bouquet of plant genitalia.
Best line: “Don’t be a hater, I’m a pollinator.”
It starts shipping in late March! ($23.50, plus postage.)
Managing Alternative Pollinators: A Handbook for Beekeepers, Growers and Conservationists
NRAES 186, SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) Handbook 11
A step-by-step, full-color guide for rearing and managing bumble bees, mason bees, leafcutter bees, and other alternatives to honey bee pollinators.
For Beekeepers: Detailed information on each alternative pollinator’s biology and susceptibility to disease, pests and chemicals, as well as step-by-step instructions on how to rear and manage alternative pollinators.
For Growers: Guidance for understanding the business of pollination, matching pollinators to crops, and deciding how best to pollinate for successful agricultural production and pollinator protection.
For Conservationists: Easy-to-understand accounts of the honey bee’s plight, the business of pollination, and what can be done to protect pollinators and our food systems.
Looks like great info!
The Xerces Society’s Pollinator Conservation Resource Center is now on-line!
It has a clickable map of North America; you can find all sorts of resources indexed there. For example, there is a Guide to Upper Midwest plants for Native Bees! Enjoy the downloading.
I could not resist this photo of an adorable little bee, even if it isn’t a North American bee; the colors were so lovely! Thanks to AussieGal for sharing!