Pollen Bee Nests and Wild Bees—Hear the Buzz!

I purchased several Native bee habitats (man-made) and read up quite a few articles on them. I’ll give a run-down of the information I found, but suffice it to say, it’s put my surroundings in a new light. Just this morning, I yelled ‘don’t walk there!! The bees are nesting in the ground there!!’ and Peter laughed. But they were!! I learned some new words. ‘Snags’ or fallen rotting trees. They are a favorite spot for wild bee nests. If you keep your ears open, you’ll hear wild bees humming around in the distance, along the slough sides, along the edges of the woods, in wood piles, and in grassy areas where the voles hang out. Look into wild flower plantings, and consider the benefits of maybe a shelterbelt of flowering shrubs, or between row plantings of flowering/nitrogen-fixing clover!

I purchased several of these pollen bees’ nests.



They are to be posted on trees and so forth around the orchard, and will provide homes for essential pollinators and make a tremendous difference to the orchard productivity! Of course, there is a lot of material near the Home Acre that allows for natural habitat for them, but the Thistle Orchard is located in an old hay field/pasture, and really only has the one tree line at hand, with a pond 1/4 mile to the South, and a natural slough several hundred yards to the East. We will install several of these along the tree line, and also look for ways to improve the natural habitat of the wild pollen bees. I do not have a lot of faith in honey bees provided by man as being early enough in the cold of the Spring. Even my daily wanderings in the strawberry patch in mid-May would suggest that the wild bees are far superior to honeybees at this task. I intend to plant both clover in between rows along with a selection of wildflowers at row ends, and flowering shrubs (most likely lilac and sea buckthorn) in the shelterbelts, to attract the wild bees and encourage them to nest nearby.


I’ve read several research articles on wild bees and find them very interesting, and certainly think this is the way to go with my orchard, given the coolness of the Spring when the man-made colonies fail. Here is an excerpt from one of them on enhancing habitat for wild bees:

A few methods for maintaining and enhancing wild pollinators have been suggested here. These have included: the maintenance of warm, sandy sites for andrenid and halictid bees as well as maintenance and construction of nesting sites for bumble bees and Osmia bees. A few more general considerations for the maintenance of native pollinators are: 

  • the encouragement of a diversity of flowering plants around … fields;
  • the maintenance of a diversity of field and forest types (meadows, woodland of various ages, forage and other flowering crops) around ..fields;
  • planting of flowers (esp clovers) for bees;
  • establishment or maintenance of windbreaks to encourage pollinator survival and activity;
  • maintenance of water and mud for sustenance and nest building;
  • the maintenance of smaller fields, so that bees do not experience feast or famine from one year to another;
  • a vigilant use of pesticides, especially during the pollination period.

From: http://www.gnb.ca/0171/10/0171100025-e.asp


I’m going to look into perhaps adding some wildflowers to the mix, although in my experience, clover has that ‘buzz’ when it’s in bloom. You can hear it for miles!! If I install beehives for ‘tame’ bees, I won’t rely on them to pollinate the Haskap. They will be an added feature, and their honey will more likely be clover honey than true ‘Haskap’ honey, since they’ll most likely not even fly in mid-May! I’m doubting the validity of ‘Haskap honey’ having very much Haskap in it at all in this zone (1b).


What’s in a definition?

Pollinator versus Pollenizer

If you want to sound as if you know what you are talking about, learn the difference! Curtis Braaten (Haskap Central Sales Ltd.) encouraged me last year to refer to a plant as a ‘pollenizer’ and the honeybee as the ‘pollinator’. I thought the concept (and the distinction) a bit ‘la-dee-da’ at first, until I did more reading.

Now, it annoys me to see even propagators of plants refer to their plants as ‘pollinators’!!

From Wikipedia:

Plants are sometimes mistakenly called pollinators. For example, …. nursery catalogs may say variety X should be planted as a pollinator for variety Y, when they actually should be referring to it as a pollenizer. Strictly, a plant can only be a pollinator when it is self-fertile and it physically pollinates itself without the aid of an external pollinator, as in the case of apomictic species like some rowans and hawthorns.

I don’t think it particularly matters if you spell ‘pollenizer’ as ‘pollinizer’ though. That’s just a local spelling difference, and we’ve also seen ‘polliniser’ in the UK readings.




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