Hello to new and old readers, I took the summer off of blogging to better manage my time, and I'd like to kick off the relaunch with a "What's my Part?" themed blog series focusing on what land owners of all walks of life can do in their yard or neighborhood to better their local environmental quality. I'll begin with homeowners but this series will touch on all different sectors of land ownership including industrial, commercial, schools, churches, parks....all while covering topics such as pollinator benefiting, habitat restoration, erosion control, chemical run-off reduction, storm water run-off reduction, carbon footprint reduction and more. Let's begin with the popular topic of pollinator support from a homeowner's perspective.
In the Midwest region White Tail Deer are over populated in nearly all environments, Urban, Suburban, and Rural. A large majority of pollinators relied on the previously forested lands that supported a diverse array of wildflowers that bloomed from Late March into June, predominately. The combination of deforestation, invasive shrub invasion in forest understories, and White Tail Deer over grazing the remaining forest wildflowers; these native pollinators must find other viable sources of nectar and pollen early in the season. The majority of prairie wildflowers bloom from Late June through September, but a few bloom earlier and this picture above was taken mid May. The hard to see Downy Wood Mint (Blephilia ciliata) are numerously short-tubed shaped flowers from the mint family. This flower type excludes very short tongued insects like wasps and beetles, but the tubes aren't deep enough to exclude insects with moderately long tongues like honeybees, and small butterflies. The gold daisy like flower is Lance Leaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) and is highly accessible to pollinators. The petals present a large landing pad for insects and the nectar source is abundant enough to attract large Bumble Bees and butterflies. The white tubed shaped flowers are Foxglove Beardtongue, which exclude some pollinators by the shape. The abundant nectar is then only accessible by smaller bumble bees and other small bees, but takes significant energy for butterflies to retrieve it's resources.
Together this selection of just 3 different wildflowers was able to support small, medium and large sized butterflies, wasps and beetles, and bees of all sizes. The summer wildflowers have their own importance, but April and May native prairie bloomers that are unpalatable to deer would go a long way in helping pollinators throughout the midwest which has seen extensive damage done to their forest spring blooming wildflowers. For helping out pollinators in the Midwest and Eastern regions, I suggest favoring a strong April through May crop of diverse flower shapes. Here's some deer resistant choices. Before planting, talk to a local native plant supplier about to find out what will work on your property.
Note: Not all of these species are unpalatable to deer, and not all are prairie species.
In all moderately diverse wildflower observations I made this season, Honey Bees foraged together, yet separate from their biggest competition, Bumble Bees. Bumble bees will choose the cream of the crop sources of nectar and pollen, like they chose Wild Senna over the other summer forbs, and how they chose Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) over the smaller Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) in this following setting. In a field that featured strong populations of the previously listed Milkweeds, Bumble Bees dominated the Common Milkweed along with milkweed beetles, while honeybees steered clear focusing on the smaller Butterflyweed, which all but the smallest of Bumble Bees, passed over. The large Common Milkweed populations on the site, acted like Wild Senna in the first example, which allowed for Butterflies, smaller native bees, and Honey Bees to compete on Butterflyweed.
These following observations are in reference to the above picture. In a second field example, Bumble Bees, which favor Mountain Mint species in many forb associations, were dispersed among the Prairie Blazingstar (Liatris pycnostachya) and Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). Honey Bees have adapted to the Liatris genus, but chose to concentrate on the Mountain mint, which had the least competition. Rattlesnake master was also present, and hosted small butterflies, and various small native bees. I wouldn't place too much emphasis on the specific plants, one key concept to take away is diversity of flower types blooming in the same period. The other key concept is providing the Bumble Bees, which are the honeybees biggest competition, with plants that Bumble Bees specialize in to keep them from directly competing with honeybees on the same flora. Here's a list of plants that Bumble Bees tend to flock to over most other native plants while in bloom.
(Occupying Bumble Bee populations throughout the season will allow honeybees forage competitively)
(Here's a list of flowers that honey bees foraged on in mass while Bumble Bees were occupied)
Diversity and Bloom Period
How much is enough?
Related Resource Books
Attracting Native Pollinators
Bringing Nature Home
Native Plants for Honeybees