Native Pollinators and What’s Blooming

Her earliest leaf’s a flower, but only so an hour. (Frost)
Opening bud of a native buckeye tree, whose later
blooms arepoisonous to honey bees.

Many years ago I assisted my ecology/botany sister in her research on native prairie restoration in the Midwest. My job that day was to sit in a square yard of space on a railway right-of-way for several hours, one of the few unsprayed areas where the native prairie plants still thrived (this is no longer the case), and watch for pollinators. When they arrived I was to log what they were visiting, catch them in a net, collect pollen from their feet, note the time, and then release them.

I am not constitutionally suited for research, at least this kind, and this was my first and only experience of doing so. It was pretty boring! Nevertheless, I learned a lot. Bees and butterflies came at particular times to specific plants, and those plants’ blooms opened at the times the pollinators visited. Their bodies were suited to collecting from that particular flower. Their presence was essential to the pollination of that plant. Both needed the other. Consider planting natives to help out those bees and butterflies who do so much work to make our world what it is.

Flowering Bay Laurel
Flowering Manzanita

One factor overlooked in our current pollination crisis is the studies that show the importance of native pollinators. If wild lands exist around a field, often those crops can be pollinated by native bees and butterflies. The issue is this, though: there need to be native plants and wild lands to support those native pollinators. They do not lend themselves to being industrially farmed as the honey bee has been (to its demise). This requires a different consciousness, one that takes in the whole picture.

This brought me full circle to noticing what is visiting what bloom on our ranch. These weeks I will keep photographing some of these. Watch your own yard and garden and see what comes.

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