The springtime sun casts a special morning glow on flowers waking from their long winter’s nap. As I walk around the garden, it is apparent it isn’t only the flowers that are showing off. The thrum of busy bumblebees can be heard gathering nectar from the flowers and telling the story that spring is here.
Historically, farmer did not see the benefit of encouraging this insect into their fields as they were viewed as producing very little honey and therefore held no value. In time the farmer learned their early crops of alfalfa and clover benefited from these early visitors for a host of reasons.
For starters, bumblebees are the workhorse of pollinators. It is documented they can seek out over seven posies within a minute of time! Do the math on that for an hour of pollinating! Despite their size, they are known to out work the average honey bee by several hours more per day. Additionally, they manage to do their work in much colder temperatures than most honey bees due to their furry body retaining their body heat.
It seems those furry bodies also collect more pollen. Plus some vegetables need their thrumming vibration to stimulate fruit/vegetable production for such plants as tomatoes, whereas the honey bee is too small to create such vibration.. Since the bumblebee relies on pollen for its food source, it will visit far more species of flowers that may not be as rich in pollen. Without the draw of rich pollen, most honey bees will avoid plants such as some native flowering shrubs thus thwarting the plant’s need to reproduce..
Attracting these workhorses to the garden is relatively simple. Include a series of plants with deep tubular flowers such as lavender, salvia, agastache, and nepeta. They are all sun loving, water conserving plants that the deer typically avoid eating. The long tongues of the bumblebee can reach into the depth of these flower to extract the nectar found within. For the creative gardener, this short video explains how to provide a nest for the queen. The same slurry of water on a flat rock made for butterflies and bees will be welcome to the bumblebee for their hydration. These gentle giants of garden pollinators rarely, if ever sting if you show them respect!
Do you already have bumblebees visiting your garden? Enjoy watching their activity! And have a great weekend.