The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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May 28, 2014

Bring in the bees, please!

Bees are vastly underrated insects.

Sure, they sting sometimes, but most are invaluable horticulture workers, pollinating our vegetables and flowers. As their numbers have drastically declined in the past 10 years, some crop growers have hired hives of bees as “immigrant workers.” Our native bees are especially threatened as more and more areas of native vegetation are plowed or paved. Chemical sprays are also believed to have a lethal effect on bees that eat the pollen of treated plants. You may see signs at local nurseries saying that their plants are free of neonicotinoids. They are assuring you that the plants you put in your yard will not harm the bees.

How can you help?

Reduce or eliminate the use of chemicals in your yard and all creatures, from birds to insects, will find it a healthier place to visit. Next, plant the native plants that provide the food and shelter they need. You don’t have to plant a prairie or a forest. Many of the native plants are attractive in an urban garden. Several of my favorites are:

■ Wild geranium (geranium maculatum): spring blooming pink flowers;

■ Pussy Willow (salix discolor): spring blooming shrub;

■ Goatsbeard (aruncus diocus): late spring, white plumes;

■ Purple coneflower (echinocea auguslefolia): large with pink and white flowers;

■ Sunflower (delianthus sp.);

■ Sedum "Autumn Joy": Not native but supports bees;

■ Beebalm (monarda sp.): Purple, pink, red blooms in summer;

■ Anise hyssop (agastache foeniculum): Purple spikes in fall;

■ Rudbeckia trilobite: Numerous small, brown-eyed daisies in fall.

By using these plants, you can have an attractive display of perennial plants from May to October. They will survive the worst weather and often reseed to ensure new plants. You can find more information at www.beelab.umn.edu

Barb Maher, MN River Valley Master Gardener

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