Add habitat for native bumblebees to your landscape
At a fascinating April, 2019 lecture sponsored by Grow Native Massachusetts in Cambridge, biologist Rob Gegear of Worcester Polytechnic Institute shared his research on the ecology of native bumblebees, and offered many evidence-based actions to help conserve these vital pollinators. A key component of Rob's guidelines for creating high-quality bumblebee habitat was plant selection, described later in this article.
His guidelines: first and foremost, avoid using non-native plants as much as possible. Exotic species disrupt the ecological systems within which bumblebees and native plants have evolved, and may actually contribute to bumblebee declines. Of the eleven bumblebee species native to Massachusetts, only a few have stable or expanding populations. Many of the species that are now rare have declined significantly from their historical abundance. Some non-native perennials might buzz with bees when in bloom, but they are often attracting only the most common, least threatened bumblebees. The true indicator of valuable habitat is seeing a diversity of pollinator species.
Bombus impatiens on New England aster. © Janet Wilder
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