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Most bumblebees make their hives in the ground.

Native bumblebee species such as the rusty-patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis), the western bumblebee (Bombus occidentalis, as seen above) and the yellowband- ed bumblebee (B. terricola) are some of the Canadian species in decline.

Bumblebees are increasingly being used commercially in Europe in greenhouse tomato productions.

It is this pollen collecting of the

bumblebees that makes them so incred- ibly important to food production in the world. While most cereal grains are pollinated by the wind, the vast major- ity of fruit and nut crops, lots of vegeta- bles and other agricultural crops like cotton and clovers, are pollinated by insects – primarily honey and bumble bees. Bumble bees are especially good at pollinating tomatoes and are increas- ingly being used commercially in Europe in greenhouse tomato produc- tions. It is also interesting to note that unlike honey bees, the robust, hairy

Plant a variety of native and heirloom plants with a succession of blooms from early spring (willows, fruit trees, etc.) to late fall (goldenrods, asters, etc.) to provide bumblebees with pollen and nectar throughout the year.

bumblebees will continue to collect nectar and pollen on cloudy, cool and rainy days.

Numbers declining In recent years, much has been

reported about the modern stressors affecting bees, primarily honey bees but most bees are under stress, includ- ing bumblebees. Some native species are suffering more than others but the bumblebees that are seeing declines in numbers are likely being affected by the same factors that are causing decreases in honey bees. So as with all beneficial insects, it is important in gardens to

grow plants that are attractive to these insects. Bumblebees especially like flow- ering plants such as those in the mint family like monarda (also called bee balm), sunflowers and clovers. A diver- sity of plants in the garden is always a good idea for providing plenty of food choices for bumblebees. It can also be beneficial to leave areas of unmown native grasses, brush areas or dead trees for nesting habitats. s

Sharon Moffat has a Plant Science degree from the University of Manitoba and has worked for the City of Winnipeg's Insect Control Branch for the last 24 years.

Spring 2016 • 31

Photo by Stephen Ausmus.

Photo by Jonathan Kollasch.

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