By Jeff Harris
Dr. Geoff Denny (Assistant Professor in Plant and Soil Sciences at Miss. State University) asked me to discuss gardening for pollinators and honey bees on the main campus in Starkville on Saturday, April 26. We met at the old enology (wine making) lab near the North Farm.
I have little gardening experience myself, and when I have planted; my emphasis has always been on providing hummingbirds with adequate food plants. However, my research associate, Audrey Sheridan, educated me recently on various aspects of gardening for bees and other insect pollinators. She and another technician have maintained a pollinator garden at the Clay Lyle Entomology Building for many years.
I began the discussion with a short presentation on the basic biology of honey bees. I emphasized the importance of poly-floral diets in providing bees with the broad diversity of nutrients (amino acids, sterols, and vitamins) from the different pollens available to them when many different flower species are blooming simultaneously or in succession. The talk then shifted to basic considerations of planting gardens and the types of plants that appeal to bees (and those that provide the best nutrition for honey bees). I used Audrey’s power point slide set on this subject as part of my presentation.
A water feature (shaped like a skep hive) provides the soulful sound of a waterfall, but more importantly it can provide a drink for thirsty bees.
After the formal presentation, many of the participants followed me to Clay Lyle where we wandered around the pollinator gardens. Many of the plants were in full bloom, and various species of bees, flies, and butterflies were visiting the flowers. It was another beautiful spring day, and the participants seemed to enjoy actually seeing a well-established pollinator garden.
Poly-floral gardens provide a diversity of pollens that make them nutritionally ideal for honey bees and other pollinators.