Native Pollinators

By: Joe Sebastiani, Seasonal Program Team Leader

Last week, we held the first of hopefully many programs featuring Matt Sarver, a local freelance entomologist and ecologist.  Matt is an expert naturalist and is vice president of the Delmarva Ornithological Society.  His program last week at Ashland Nature Center focused on native pollinators, especially bees.

Matt is the author of Farm Management for Native Bees and Delaware Native Plants for Native Bees, publications by the Delaware Department of Agriculture.  We learned that native pollinators are important for increased agricultural yield, offer a “pollination insurance policy” should the non-native honeybee become unavailable, are themselves extremely important in the web of life, and that promoting habitat for them also improves habitat for a wealth of other species.

Matt Sarver examines a bee caught by the group at Ashland Nature Center.

Matt focused his introduction and field expedition on bees, but we found many other species of insect pollinators as well.  In the field we caught insects with nets and got close-up looks at Sweat Bees, Bumblebees, Carpenter Bees, and Long-horned Bees.  We caught Scoliid Wasps, Yellowjackets, Potter Wasps, Flower Flies, and even some butterflies and moths.  All of these being important pollinators of wild plants and some crops.

A species of Sweat Bee, an important pollinator that nests in the soil or rotting logs.
A bee carrying the white pollen of New York ironweed.

Most importantly, Matt shared some ways we can take action on our properties to promote native pollinators.  1.  Leave dead trees and limbs when possible.  These provide nesting sites for many native pollinator species.  2. Let some areas “go wild”, and designate “no-spray” and “no-mowing” zones.  3.  Plant flowering vegetation that is native and diverse.  See the Native Plants for Native Bees link above for suggestions.  4.  Avoid planting hybrid flower varieties bred to be showy as these often lack pollen and nectar needed by native insects. 5.  Provide nest sites such as bare dirt ground, a sand pit or pile, rotten wood pile, and provide a stem bundle or “bee nesting block”.  If you have a large property, maintain some areas as native wildflower meadow and establish hedgerows.  See Matt’s Farm Management for Native Bees link above for more details.  All of these actions will make your property more attractive to other forms of insect and bird life as well, and will improve the local ecology.  Finally, show the world that you are making a difference by getting a Backyard Habitat Certification offered by the Delaware Nature Society. 

Native plants attract pollinators such as the Meadow Fritillary. In turn, these attract predators such as the Ambush Bug, which has captured the butterfly in this photo. Can you see the Ambush Bug hidden in the Goldenrod flower?

Look for future programs featuring Matt Sarver by signing up to receive email notification of Spontaneous Nature Programs offered by the Delaware Nature Society.

Leave a Reply