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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee

Protecting Bumblebees 
Is a Gardening Must

May 31, 2016 01:43PM ● By Diane Olson Schmidt

Bumblebees are in trouble, and that means trouble for our vegetable gardens. Tomato and eggplant, for example, can only be pollinated by bumblebees. To attract and protect these important pollinators, keep the following tips in mind.

■  Leave some Creeping Charlie in your lawn or planting beds, as bumblebees love their blue flowers.

■  Do not use neonicotinoid-type insecticides, as they spread through the roots to the flowers, and the seeds become toxic to bees, including the mason bees that pollinate our fruit trees. Neonicotinoids are sold under the Bayer brand plus lesser-known brands like Spectracide. If in doubt, check the label: avoid any insecticide containing imidacloprid, acetamiprid, dinotefuran, clothidnidin, thiacloprid or thiamecthoxam.

■  Buy from nurseries that do not treat their plants with neonicotinoids, such as Stein’s, Minors, Bayside Garden Center, Home Depot and Lowe’s. Some garden centers get their plants from other greenhouse suppliers, so save the plant tags for reference. Fortunately, more garden centers and nurseries are becoming aware of the risks of neonicotinoids and do not use them.

■  Add a flowering mix for pollinators along the edge of your vegetable garden, along with single-flowering marigolds to deter pests. Be sure to include native plants; some non- native plants, especially those with double flowers, have been bred for beauty at the expense of pollen and nectar production.

■  Flowers in the daisy family are rich in nectar and pollen. Try planting purple coneflower, black-eyed susans, sweet alyssums, dandelions, wild geraniums, Joe Pye weed, cardinal flower, great blue lobelia, asters and especially the annual daisy fleabane. Plant goldenrods in the fall. Also, don’t forget milkweed for the monarch butterflies.

Diane Olson Schmidt is with LaceWing Gardening & Consulting Services. Contact her at 414-793-3652 or [email protected].

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