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Wildflower is published quarterly by the Wildflower Center. Its content is national in scope with articles about the conservation and use of native plants as well as news from the Wildflower Center. A subscription is provided to Wildflower Center members as a benefit of membership.

Letter from the Editor - Summer 2009

Bee Kind

 Every time I look at the bottom of my foot, a small, dimpled scar reminds me of bees. I was 6 when with all the amazing energy of a young child I danced around our family’s grassy Midwestern backyard until – ouch! My foot landed smack down in the middle of a white clover blossom, interrupting the bee that was busy pollinating it.

And although my fears of getting stung again lingered throughout my childhood, as an adult I learned that most bees don’t sting and to value the bees in my yard and those that help bring the food to our tables across America. (It’s estimated that one out of every three bites of food comes to us through the work of animal pollinators.)

More often than ever, it seems, bees are making the news. For instance, in April, Reuters reported that Europe’s beekeeping industry could be wiped out in less than a decade as bees fall victim to disease, insecticides and intensive farming. The report indicated that about 35 percent of European food crops rely on bees to pollinate them, and last year about 30 percent of Europe’s 13.6 million hives died.

Here in the United States, Colony Collapse Disorder continues to claim non-native honeybees (Apis mellifera), North America’s most important managed pollinator.
Although U.S. agroforestry now relies upon these European honeybees, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture research shows that native bees can be important pollinators in agricultural fields as long as enough habitat is available.

There are said to be 4,000 species of bees native to North America; in California there are 1,500 different species alone. According to the Pollinator Partnership and its North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, urban areas can provide important habitat for many bee species, and gardeners can help save species that are in decline due to threatened habitat.

Here are some things you can do for bees and other pollinators:

  • Watch for pollinators. Enjoy a summer day by taking a walk to see bees and other pollinators at work in the landscape.
  • Expose your kids to pollinators. Teach them to be unafraid and to understand the importance of bees and other pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds. “The Buzz on Pollination” on page 31 of this issue was written by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s public programs manager Stephen Brueggerhoff to teach kids about the different sounds that distinguish species of bees as they forage for pollen.
  • Plant for pollinators. Create pollinator-friendly habitat with native flowering plants that supply pollinators with nectar, pollen and homes. The Ann and O.J. Weber Butterfly Garden at the Wildflower Center is a good model native plant garden. Native bees and butterflies are more attracted to plants native to your region than to exotics.
  • Avoid pesticides, says the Pollinator Partnership, even so-called natural ones such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).
Enjoy your summer, and be careful of those bees under foot…but not so careful that you miss out on some of the best things about nature.

— Christina Kosta Procopiou, Editor

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