Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - 65

SINGING IN THE GARDEN

dig near each other, creating a colony of introverts.
After sealing each tunnel, the female dies. Meanwhile
the eggs hatch and the larvae eat their pollen-nectar
treat. When that's gone, they spin a small cocoon,
sleep through winter, and wait for the perfect spring day to emerge. A day much
like the day I first spotted the ground
bees at my house.
Of the over 20,000 named bee
species in the world, it is estimated that 70% are solitary nesters
like these. The genus Andrena is
an especially critical pollinator
for many of our Appalachian native flowers, so it is important to
protect them when we see them and
to provide for their future success.
Miner bees like a dry area for their
nests, so I don't saturate my lawn with sprinklers, at least not until late in the summer. Some species of miners prefer to build nests below a thin layer of
mulch or leafy debris, so I leave a layer of mulch on my
flower beds at all times and replenish it only when it is
almost gone.
Ground dwellers aren't our only native bees. Others

Of the over 20,000 named
bee species in the world, it is
estimated that 70% are solitary
nesters like these.
are tunnel borers. They love pithy
stems for nesting sites. To help
them along, I leave old flower
stalks in my gardens all winter
long and in the spring I reduce
them to twelve inches tall. My
flower beds look like they have had a
very bad crew-cut but the bees can use
these longer stalks for homes.
Earth, left to itself, naturalizes towards shaggy
and unkempt. My new gardening patterns mimic that
look. I've seen a greater variety of non-stinging native
bees in my garden and yard as a result.
I've always been a sort of happily laid back gardener.
Native bees are just another great excuse to let things
have their own way.

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MAY/JUNE 2021

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Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021

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