Learning to Grow: Bees and other pollinators in the garden

“Bee and wasps both pollinate, although it is a bee’s primary function to feed on nectar and harvest pollen to make honey,” writes master gardener and columnist Jody Lay.

Someone once told me that bumblebees can’t sting. An article on the internet says bees are almost extinct. One fact about bees that is actually true is bees are the only insects that produce something we consume. To me, that’s pretty cool and enough to help our pollinator friends. Here’s some info about bees, wasps and other pollinators.

First, let’s clear up the difference between bees and wasps. They are both social insects that work together and share the same nest but serve different yet beneficial functions for humans. Wasps have smooth, hairless bodies and bees have tiny hairs covering their thorax. Bee and wasps both pollinate, although it is a bee’s primary function to feed on nectar and harvest pollen to make honey.

Wasps pollinate by flying from flower to flower but it is not their focus. They are omnivores, feeding on other insects to nourish their young, while adults prefer sugar and honeydew (sugary secretion of aphids). Anyone who has dined outside in August knows how much yellow jackets and wasps love sweet foods. Toward the end of summer they become more active and can become aggressive, although generally if left alone they leave you alone, too.

Wasps and bumblebees make annual nests and die each winter, while honey bees hoard together around the queen to stay warm and survive the winter. When a honey bee colony clusters for the winter, it generates enough heat to withstand up to -30 degrees! Wasps are known for their elaborate nests, usually a ball or a honeycomb-looking paper nest hanging from eaves or a tree branch. Bumblebees and yellow jackets typically take up residence underground in old rodent dens, wall cavities or wood piles.

Honey bees build wax cells, mostly in constructed hives but occasionally take refuge in a tree or wall space. When a colony…

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