News Blog for Seattle's Maple Leaf Neighborhood


Eleven things about urban bees and your garden

August 9th, 2014 · 1 Comment

By Caroline Young Ullmann

Maple Leaf Community Garden Plot No. 4

The Urban Pollination Project gave a workshop on bees this week at the Maple Leaf Community Garden.

In the photo, Susan Waters is showing a group of nine pea patch gardeners how to identify bees, wasps and flies. (See below.)

Waters, a co-founder of the pollination project, holds a PhD from the University of Washington.

Here’s some of what the class learned:

1) Generally speaking, wasps are shiny and smooth and bees are fuzzy.

2) Bee hairs are branched to collect pollen.

3) Male wasps and bees don’t sting.

4) Wasps don’t pollinate but they’re good in the garden because they eat insects like aphids off our plants.

5) Bumble bees in North America are rapidly declining and that’s bad because they pollinate a lot of crops.

6) Nearly all tomato plants in Seattle are pollinated by bumble bees because they are hefty enough to vibrate the flowers.

7) About 15-20 years ago, our most common bumble was the Western bumble bee (the one with the white butt) but it has virtually disappeared and no one knows why. Now the yellow-faced bumble bee is super-common.

8)  Honey bees can range 5 miles or so to forage; there isn’t data on urban bumble bees but the suspicion is they travel only one-quarter of a mile.

9) If honey bees decide they don’t like their queen, they’ll surround her and vibrate so rapidly they fry her to death.

10) We have a weird territorial bee (an invasive called the European wool carder) that will decide it “owns” a flowering plant and body slam other bees that come too close.

11) Tips to attract bees to your garden: Don’t use pesticides; leave piles of twigs on the ground for bumbles to nest beneath; plant a sequence of flowers throughout the growing season.

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