3 Ways To Save Kane County's Declining Bee Population

3 Ways To Save Kane County’s Declining Bee Population

  • This article is part a series on Kane County pollinators, contributed by Jessica Mino, resource management coordinator for the Kane County Division of Environmental and Water Resources.

Last week’s article looked at the reasons bee populations are declining in Kane County and nationally.

This week, we share some ways you can support the local bee population. Here are three suggestions:

(1) Do Away With Harmful Pesticides

The best way to protect bees from harm is to avoid pesticide use all together.

Prairie blazing star. Photo credit: Jessica Mino

If a certain pest needs to be controlled, consider what other means may effectively deter the pest and whether a natural product can be used that will allow the other natural elements in your yard (which includes bees) to carry on, unaffected.

And remember: Natural products are better for your health, too!

You can opt for organic produce to support pesticide-free production. This helps extend your impact beyond your own yard.

When pesticides are used, carefully consider the timing of pesticide applications. For example, avoid applying while plants are blooming or on plants where beneficial insects like bees are active.

The Xerces Society provides further information on managing pesticides to protect bees.

The Environmental Protection Agency provides tips for both Household Pesticide Users and Farmers on reducing our impact on bee populations. This includes using cultural, mechanical, and biological pest controls where possible.

For municipalities, the Midwest Pesticide Action Center provides the Municipal Pesticide Reduction Toolkit.

(2) Provide Food

Butterfly milkweed. Photo credit: Jessica Mino

Plant a pollinator garden with vibrant, pollinator-loving flowers. Select native plant species that are attractive and nutritious to native bees.

Plant suggestions for bees and other pollinators are:

  • Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
  • Cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum)
  • New England aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum)
  • Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
  • Purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea)
  • Showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa)
  • Lanceleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata)
  • Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

Think about planting varieties that bloom at different times during the year so that the bees can gather pollen throughout multiple seasons. This method was used in the rain garden at the Kane County Government Center.

Butterfly milkweed blooming at the Government Center rain garden in early June of 2018.

Purple and yellow cone flowers, wild bergamot, black-eyed susans, and prairie blazing star blooming at the Government Center rain garden in July of 2018.

(3) Provide Habitat And Shelter

Providing a bee “hotel” is a great way to promote certain types of native Illinois bees, specifically solitary bees.

Photo credit: The Habitat Network

The Honeybee Conservancy explains the difference between honeybees and solitary bees, and the housing needs of each type.

The Habitat Network by The Nature Conservancy and The Cornell Lab show you how to make your own bee hotel and where to place it in your yard or garden.

Another great tip to provide natural shelter for bees is to leave vegetation in your garden, including throughout fall and winter.

This means not removing all of the garden debris and leaving the remnants of plants that have died off in place. Hollow stems, leaf litter, and brush provide overwintering protection for bees waiting for the cold to pass.


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