Creating a Welcome Environment for Hard Working Bees

While clearing invasive plants at a Nature Preserve in Avon, a species of bee never seen in Indiana before has been detected. The discovery of the bee is particularly exciting as, over the past decade, there has been a fall in bee numbers across the country. Loss of natural habitats and the use of pesticides have contributed to this decline. As bees play a key role in our ecosystem and crop development, improving local environments and encouraging them to visit plants in fields and gardens is vital.

Paying Attention to Pollinators

There are over 200 native bee populations in Indiana, some of which, no doubt, will have been spotted over the summer in Indianapolis during the third annual Pollinator Count. Projects like this help to raise awareness of pollinators and how important they are to local ecosystems and the food that we eat. By making a few simple changes in the garden, such as planting native flowers, reducing the use of pesticides, and providing shelter in a small pile of untreated wood, hard-working, native bees are encouraged to keep visiting.

Pollinating Indiana’s Crops

Although Indiana’s most valuable farm produce, corn and soybeans, are wind or self-pollinating, other important crops like tomatoes rely on wild bees for pollination. Indeed, tomato farmers whose plants receive regular visits from bumble bees may have 50% of tomatoes grow twice as large as normal. Unlike honey bees, the wild bees are able to access the pollen hidden in anthers in their flowers.They use a method called sonicating which involves biting the anthers and then buzzing against them until they release their pollen. Up until recently it was believed that this was a learned behavior but a recent study shows that it is in fact an instinctive ritual. Apart from tomatoes, the most commonly grown fruit in Indiana is the apple. As an important source of food for bees, trees are often overlooked, however they provide thousands of attractive, pollen-filled flowers, and rely on birds and insects for cross pollination.

Though the nation’s bee population has been in decline, discovering a native bee new to Indiana, and raising awareness of the importance of wild bees, offers hope for sustaining numbers and the quality of the crops that they pollinate. By keeping a check on pollinators and removing threats from outdoor spaces, Indiana offers a welcoming environment in which bees can thrive.

Post contributed by Lucy Wyndham


Invasive Plant Trading in Indiana

The Natural Resources Commission granted preliminary adoption to a new rule designed to remove 44 invasive plants from trade inside Indiana. The decision only starts the deliberative rules process. It does not put a new rule into effect.

Invasive species in Indiana regularly move into the forest and restrict the ability of trees to regenerate because the invasive use essential nutrients and block sunlight from native species that regenerate more slowly.

Indiana land managers (private and public) currently spend an estimated $8.6 million managing invasive plants every year. The goal of removing these invasive species from trade is to reduce the number such plants escaping into the wilderness, thereby reducing the amount of state and federal funding required to control them.

The DNR has determined that 22 of the 44 plants identified can be found in trade in Indiana now, but only four are sold with any regularity. To decrease potential fiscal impact of the rule on small businesses, the DNR would make allowance for an additional year from the effective date of the rule to sell affected stock before issuing penalties. The proposal would also allow members of the public to report evidence of terrestrial invasive species to the DNR.

Lynn Burry, Indiana Wildlife Federation Policy Committee Chairperson stated, “this is a great step. When finally adopted it will go a long way to returning Indiana to its natural beauty and wonder. It must now move through the rule making process that includes public hearings. I am sure there will be amendments to add addition plants to the list. Well done NRC.”

The Indiana DNR News Release can found at this link.