paul has a new video  

 



visit the thread.

see the DVDs.

  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Do nectary plants really improve pollination?  RSS feed

 
Ben Bishop
Posts: 54
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
On Paul's recent Podcast with Jacqueline Freeman, she mentioned that every honeybee has a particular plant that they will pollinate that particular day. So any given bee won't jump from a clover to a cucumber to a yarrow in one day. I suppose evolution would have selected for bee's that didn't waste time spreading pollen to totally different species that couldn't use it. Anyway, my question is this: If a honeybee is only pollinating one type of flower per day, how do nectaries attract pollinators into your garden? That foxglove plant by your fruit tree wouldn't necessarily bring in a bee that is pollinating that fruit tree that day since it is busy with the foxglove, right?

The only answer I can think of is that the honeybees make a mental note that there is a fruit tree about to blossom and will make sure to get to it tomorrow or communicate with the hive to pollinate it the next day. Would they really not have been able to find that fruit tree otherwise?

As a secondary question, do nectary plants ever distract bee's away from the plants you actually want pollinated if both the nectary and the crop bloom at the same time? Do you consciously choose nectaries that bloom just before the fruit tree does?
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3386
Location: woodland, washington
82
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
there are a lot of good reasons to plant a wide variety of nectary plants. attracting honey bees probably isn't one of them.

in a permaculture setting, honey bees aren't great pollinators, relatively speaking. they can get the job done for most plants, but their big advantage is the honey (and they're a lot of fun). nectary plants certainly help honey bees out, and a healthy honey bee colony is more likely to comprise a greater population and therefore have more foragers around to pollinate your crops, so there may be a small advantage there.

a much bigger advantage is attracting the myriad other pollinators that are likely to either pollinate better than honey bees (or in different conditions or seasons) or control herbivorous pest insects or both. and they're generally pleasant and useful plants quite apart from the nectary aspect.

and yes, a plant floweringat the same time as your crop can distract honey bees if it is more attractive and available in large enough quantities, but I believe that's a rather unusual situation. it's certainly not something I've ever encountered.
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
289
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
As important as honey bees are to our food production, they are but one species out of thousands that do the job for us.
And each hive has its own schedule for the day.
The 'scouts' go out first, and find 'work' for the hive for today.
The scout does an aerobatic dance that tells the hive which direction to go, how far, and what to look for.
The hive follows the lead of this 'correographer'.

Another hive will have scouts that may have found something different, so, they will work that crop for the day.

As far as confusing a hive into harvesting the wrong thing, in the commercial world, that is unlikely. An almond orchard will have no other living plant within it, so the bee's job is easy. However, if you have a lone lemon tree in a one acre field of lavender, and they are both in blossom at the same time, every bee in the hive will 'work' the lavender, and ignore your lemon tree. Diversity is key. Both in crops, and in pollinators. Too much of any one thing will overwhelm them.

Most other bees (and other pollinators) are solitary, meaning that they do not live in a 'commune' with other bees. They do not have the social structure of having a scout go look for today's target. Each individual pollinator must go out and find its own food (and job) for the day. This is an important distinction, which should not be overlooked. By planting a regional wildflower assortment, you are providing both food, AND habitat for the solitary pollinators. If you plant it, they will come. Native wildflowers, in abundance, will keep the native pollinators on your land.

The honey bee is not native to North America - it was imported because it was an important pollinator that the Europeans understood. Because 'we' have manipulated our croplands to such an imbalance, the honey bee's continued existence is in jeopardy today. Each year, they are dieing by the billions. Most commercial bee keepers are reporting up to 80% of their hives are dieing each year. If we don't improve the quality of our fields, the native pollinators will soon do the same. By not providing food and habitat for the natives, we may soon be starving ourselves off of the land.


 
Ludger Merkens
Posts: 171
Location: Deutschland (germany)
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Well honey bees tend to visit the same flower type as often as possible. Thats good for pollination and thats efficient for the honey bee. But this doesn't mean, all bees of a hive collect from the same type of flower. According to newer findings, it is more likely, that bees collect nectar and pollen in small groups around one 'scout' bee. Each of this groups will visit only one type of flowers - as long as this source won't 'dry out'. They even learn the time of the day, each type of flower is producing nectar and will continue collecting for many days. But there are many groups in a hive, so it is unlikely, that pollination will be limited to only one plant group.

Planting a lot of different nectar source plants, means better nectar (and probably more important pollen-) diversity for your honey bees. It means better food supply for other bees (solitary bees, bumble bees etc.), which in turn means greater independence from the pollination service of the honey bee. In early spring, pollination is probably dominated by the honey bee, unless you have other native bees which winter in hive strength. Later in the year, other pollinators (also attracted by a rich diversity of nectar plants) will break this dominance.

So unless you - like some conventional bee keepers - are after single-varietal-honey like clover-honey, it is always a good idea to have lots of different nectar plants around.

 
allen lumley
pollinator
Posts: 4154
Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
58
books fungi hugelkultur solar wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
- The nectar from the 'other plants' keeps your hive strong and healthy on "other days'' when your fruit trees etc. are not yet ready for pollination !

Lots of different types of flowering plants is what you need ! Big AL
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
289
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

 
Roy Hinkley
Posts: 269
Location: S. Ontario Canada
7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Just thought I would add an observation here.
Every year the very first place I see bees is on the wild violets. And a lot of them.
It's about the first thing to bloom in the spring when most everything else is still dormant and seems like it would be really important to northern keepers.
 
Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1474
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
119
forest garden urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'll share the experience one of the gardeners at my local community garden told me about. When they started the gardens in the middle of a local park, there was nothing but grass for close to an acre surrounding them. Outside of that was fairly new housing developments, which as most of us know, don't have a lot of flowering plants included in the landscapes. They weren't able to get fruit to produce in the gardens, even though the plants were growing and flowering fine. The gardeners cooperated with the park service to introduce clovers to the grasses, plant flowering shrubs throughout the park, and stop spraying 'weeds' when they sprouted in the grass. This was years ago and the community garden is still in the same location. With all the different flowering plants in the park now, the pollinators are finding this small collection of garden plots just fine.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
gardener
Posts: 2678
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
519
bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Roy Hinkley wrote:Every year the very first place I see bees is on the wild violets. And a lot of them. It's about the first thing to bloom in the spring when most everything else is still dormant and seems like it would be really important to northern keepers.

I have also noticed lots of bees on the wild violets first thing in the spring. Other super early plants that the honeybees frequent in large numbers are grape hyacinth and pussy willow. 
honeybee-pussywillow.jpg
[Thumbnail for honeybee-pussywillow.jpg]
honeybees on pussy willow.
wild-violets-honeybees.jpg
[Thumbnail for wild-violets-honeybees.jpg]
Wild violets abuzz with honeybees first thing in the spring.
grape-hyacinth-honeybees.jpg
[Thumbnail for grape-hyacinth-honeybees.jpg]
Grape hyacinth: highly attractive to honeybees
 
I want my playground back. Here, I'll give you this tiny ad for it:
Permaculture Playing Cards by Paul Wheaton and Alexander Ojeda
https://permies.com/wiki/57503/digital-market/digital-market/Permaculture-Playing-Cards-Paul-Wheaton
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!