“Pollinators,” says Matthew Shepherd of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation in Portland, “bees in particular—touch our lives every day. From the blueberries we put in our granola or smoothies at breakfast to the apple pie with which we end our dinner.”
In the Willamette Valley, bees are somewhat challenged from habitat loss and pesticide use, but residents can take simple steps to make our cities and neighborhoods better for bees.
“Planting flowers, says Shepherd, “may not seem like much, but it is something that will have a direct benefit. And if we all grow a few square feet of bee-friendly flowers, that could transform the landscape.”
Four recommendations on how to support bees and other pollinators:
1) Plant flowers, shrubs and trees that provide pollen and nectar. Even a shrub on a porch step can be helpful. Be conscious of overlapping bloom times that will support pollinators from spring through fall.
Keep in mind that most pollinator-attractive plants prefer sunny locations.
2) Bees thrive in an untidy landscape that includes places to live and sleep. A clean-swept yard provides little shelter , protection or food. If you can tolerate dandelions – which bloom early spring until late fall – allow them to grow, at least in areas, because they are packed with nectar and pollen. Provide homes for bees with patches of brush piles, bare ground, nesting blocks and caterpillar host plants. If you allow a few logs, sticks and leaf piles to remain , they will aide bees. Shallow bowls of water, or birdbaths. will provide water on hot summer days .
3) Curtail or avoid pesticides, especially insecticides and especially when flowers are in bloom.
Plant disease-resistant varieties and use a water hose to blast off aphids instead of chemical sprays. Herbicides reduce food sources because they remove flowers from the landscape .
4) Let neighbors or local bee-friendly societies (OSU Marion County Master Gardeners, Xerces Society) know you’re providing habitat and food for bees, and exchange resources.
For greatest success, it’s important to plant the correct plants for our region. Our list includes targeted suggestions from OSU Master Gardeners, Territorial Seed Company, Xerces Society, Portland Nursery, Oregon State University Extension and Egan Gardens.
What to plant – or allow to grow – in Salem
Asters, Douglas or great northern (Symphyotricum subspicatum,Canadanthus modestus)
Blueblossom Ceanothus thyrsiflorus
California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)
Lupine, Bigleaf or Riverbank (Lupinus polyphyllus, Lupinus rivularis)
Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium)
Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)
Showy milkweed (Aclepias speciosa)
Red flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum)
Rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum)
Non native annual
Purple coneflower (Echinacea)
Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
Lawn flowers (“weeds”)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
A pollinator meadow
For those with access to larger areas, Xerces Society provides guidelines and sells seeds for pollinator meadows in most areas of the country, including the Pacific Northwest. Cottage Grove’s Territorial Seed Company sells a similar Bee Feed Mix for our region.
*Many of the beautiful photos shown above are courtesy of Matthew Shepherd of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation in Portland.
Upcoming Bee events
Oregon State University Marion County Master Gardeners will hold a plant sale May 4th and 5th at the Oregon State Fairgrounds, where pollinator-friendly plants will be widely promoted and numerous gardening demonstrations will be conducted. Marioncomga.org.
On May 8th, from 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM at Salem Public Library’s Loucks Auditorium , Aimee Code of the Xerces Society will discuss the needs and behaviors of native pollinators including bees and Monarch butterflies. Code will explain how Mid-Willamette people can help pollinators survive and thrive. The event is free and open to the public.
The Dancing Oaks Pollinator Festival will be held at Dancing Oaks Nursery and Gardens in Monmouth from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM on Saturday, June 23rd during National Pollinator Week. Will include local food & music, educational activities for all. 10% of proceeds that day will be donated to The Pollinator Partnership’s Pollinator Garden program. www.dancingoaks.com.