Blue Ridge Country - March/April 2018 - 15
vegetables. Unlike honeybees and most other insects,
the larger, fur-covered bumblebees can regulate their
own body temperature; fly in cold weather, even snow,
in higher elevations like the Appalachians; and spread
pollen in late fall and early spring when it's too chilly
for other bees to be out. They are key pollinators of peppers, blueberries, apples and perhaps most importantly,
tomatoes and related veggies through an unusual process called buzz pollination. Grabbing the stamen of a
tomato blossom, the bumblebee vibrates its wings at
just the right frequency, causing the pollen to shoot out
of the plant.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now leading
a regional search for the rusty-patched to see if, and
where, it still exists in the Southeast. No strategies have
yet been developed to bring them back. For now, says
Hatfield, conservation agencies like Xerces, which petitioned for the Endangered Species listing in 2013, are
working to restore habitat with the help of "citizen scientists."
"[Bumblebees] need lots of bee-attractive flowers
from early spring through fall," he says. "They need a
pesticide-free environment. And they need a safe place to
build their nests to overwinter. That's the big picture."
BumBleBee Conservation: How to Help
* Plant flowers the insects like, such as coreopsis, bee balm, blazing star, coneflower and lobelia.
* Buy the plants from reputable nurseries that don't pre-treat them with harmful systemic insecticides.
* If you must use a pesticide to control other insects, choose the least toxic. Try soapy water and other home
* "Be a little bit lazy in your yard," says Rich Hatfield, senior conservation biologist in the endangered species
program at the Xerces Society. Set aside brush piles for the bumblebees to nest and leave one or more patches
of grass unmowed.
* Help track native species through bumblebeewatch.org, which encourages the public to identify bees, including
endangered species, in their own gardens and yards.
May 25-27, 2018 - Charleston
APPALACHIAN STRING BAND MUSIC FESTIVAL
August 1-5, 2018 - Clifftop
March/April 2018 15