Every time I look out my window or walk outside, I can barely contain myself. The planet seems to be shedding its winter clothes and loudly inhaling and exhaling to ooze millions of shades of lush green colors. One day nothing seems to be happening with one of our flame azaleas, and the next day it’s awash in glorious blossoms. If it makes me feel almost drunk and giddy, what must the pollinators be feeling?
How about America’s 40+ species of fuzzy bumble bees? Mated bumble queens hid away all winter and are now building up their few hundred-strong colonies of worker bees. You can report your sightings to Bumble Bee Watch, a community science project that is working to broaden our understanding of bumble bee distribution and will inform future conservation efforts.
How about the ground nesting mining or digger bees? Seventy per cent of the world’s 20,000 bee species nest in the ground! Following Portland, Oregon’s Sabin Elementary “tickle bees” has become a Xerces tradition.
Bees and other pollinators make great neighbors, even in urban areas! Positive stories of pollinator species returning after decades-long absences let us know that if we provide habitat, there’s hope that they will return. The silver digger bees’ return to San Francisco’s Presidio was a recent one. In an interesting twist, the Presidio is actually the last known habitat of the Xerces blue butterfly (Glaucopsyche xerces), for which the Xerces Society is named. Although it’s too late for the Xerces blue, we are pleased to hear that the Presidio’s habitat is recovering enough to support more pollinators!
As I have fallen in love with ever-fascinating and diverse pollinators this past decade, the year is increasingly measured by the arrival of the pollinator of the season. This spring, I fully intend to witness my first busy leafcutter bee trimming off a leaf medallion to wallpaper her nursery! What’s your pollinator-watching goal for 2019?
By Phyllis Stiles, Pollinator Champion & Founder of Bee City USA (2012). Bee City USA has been an initiative of the Xerces Society since 2018
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