Protecting Native Pollinators in the Columbia Basin

Native pollinators are essential to natural ecosystems.  They help maintain healthy, productive native plant communities.  Many animals, from birds to grizzly bears depend on insect-pollinated fruits and seeds.  Pollinating insects are a central part of the food web, being food themselves for birds, spiders, bats and fish.

Meet the Pollinators

Native bees are the most important group of pollinators.  There are more than 450 species of native bees in British Columbia. Bees play a critical role in the pollination of food crops and provide important additional pollination services in areas where non-native honey bee populations are in decline.
Most of British Columbia’s bees are solitary and do not sting!

Ground Nesting Bees

Stem and Tunnel Nesting Bees
Most native bees—about 70% – nest in the ground. They are vulnerable to soil disturbance and tilling. Most ground-nesting bees don’t fly very far from their nest sites. Habitat Helpers: Keep or clear some exposed ground in a well drained, sunny part of your garden. Minimize soil tilling or disturbance in areas designated as ground-nesting bee habitat. Build a sand pit or pile in your garden or planter box, and keep the area weeded. Bumble bee nest boxes can be dug into the soil in areas somewhat protected from the elements. Bumble bee nesting habitat can also be provided by simply leaving vacant rodent burrows alone.

Bumble Bees

Bumble bees are social bees that build their nests in vacant rodent burrows and other underground holes. These well-known bees are

Wood and tunnel nesting bees—About 30% of bee species, including mason bees, leafcutter bees, and small carpenter bees, make their nests in holes in dead trees, such as beetle tunnels, or in hollowed-out plant stems. Some species will readily use artificial nest blocks made by people.
Habitat Helpers:
Leave dead snags and hollow stemmed plants in place.
Hollow stem plants (raspberries, grasses, bamboo) cut into 8”lengths and tied in bundles. Paper tubes work too!
Build a nesting block by drilling holes into a block of preservative-free lumber.
Keeping artificial nests clean is important to limit disease build-up and to maintain healthy bee populations.

Other Pollinators – Butterflies, hummingbirds, flies, beetles and wasps may also pollinate flowers as they move from plant to plant.
Habitat Helpers: (Other Pollinators)
Create a diversity of blooming plants for nectar, sap and fruit.
Include butterfly larva host plants (such as ceanothus for swallowtails) in your garden.
Include plants that open at night for moths
Don’t be too tidy. Pollinators use piles leaf litter, sticks, logs and debris for pupation and overwintering.
Provide a water source.