CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – The bumblebee population is on the decline in Massachusetts and several species are in danger of disappearing in the next decade if current trends continue. MassWildlife is offering tips for gardeners interested in keeping their gardens bumblebee friendly.
Having a bumblebee friendly garden helps the insect with a source of floral nectar and pollination, an important step in plant reproduction. The bumblebee population in the Commonwealth has dropped from eleven to seven species, with three of those species in immediate danger of disappearing from the state.
How can you help? Growing a bumblebee friendly garden can help provide a healthy habitat for them. Here are some planting tips from MassWildlife:
- Avoid pesticide use, particularly those containing neonicotinoids.
- Avoid cultivars of native plants which don’t produce floral nectar. In most plants, you can check for nectar by removing the flower from the base and squeezing it—a bubble of clear liquid means it has nectar. For species with a nectar spur, you can check for nectar by placing a light source behind the flower.
- Avoid exotic plants—they can have dramatic negative effects on bumblebee-native plant relationships and can contribute to bumblebee decline.
- Design plantings to ensure nectar and pollen are available for bumblebees throughout the entire growing season.
- Create nesting and overwintering sites. A dry, protected cavity containing straw, small clumps of moss, and/or dried grass located on or below the ground is ideal.
- Diversity matters! Bee abundance is not the same as bee diversity. Observe visiting bumblebees and notice if there are different species of bees.
A true bumblebee friendly garden needs variety in the type of plants. Native plants friendly to bumblebees:
- Aster (Eurybia macrophylla, Symphyotrichum laeve, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)
- Bee balm (Monarda fistulosa)
- Blue flag iris (Iris versicolor)
- Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)
- Carolina rose (Rosa carolina)
- Common buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
- Dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium, Apocynum cannabinum)
- Goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis, Solidago odora, Solidago rugosa)
- Joe-pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum)
- Meadowsweet (Spiraea alba, Spiraea tomentosa)
- Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata, Asclepias syriaca, Asclepias tuberosa)
- Old field toadflax (Nuttallanthus canadensis)
- Spiked lobelia (Lobelia spicata)
- St. John’s Wort (Hypericum canadense, Hypericum punctatum)
- Spotted touch-me-not (Impatiens capensis)
- Swamp thistle (Cirsium muticum)
- Pasture thistle (Cirsium pumilum)
- Turtlehead (Chelone glabra)
- Virginia rose (Rosa virginiana)
- Wild yellow indigo (Baptisia tinctoria)
- Wild raspberry (Rubus occidentalis)
Those interested in going further and help scientist study the bee population can assist the “Bee-cology” Project, a citizen science initiative that studies the population of Massachusetts bumblebees.