Bee hotels on display at FTD

Gloria Hafemeister
Now Media Group


Wisconsin is home to more than 400 native pollinators, including bees, flies, butterflies, bats, birds and moths.

Farm Technology Days at Lake Geneva provided a 'Pollinator Lane' where visitors learned about the various pollinators and what plant species are best suited to attracting a variety of pollinators.

Schools, families, a nursing home and a library all created 'Bee hotel' structures that were on display around the UW-Extension education tent. Next to these bee hotels were samples of the many plants that are ideal for attracting pollinators.

Creators of the bee hotels competed for the award of the installation of a pollinator garden at their site. The winner was determined by visitor votes.

Inside the education tent various organizations, including the UW-Extension, US Department of Agriculture, beekeeper's organizations and others provided useful information about pollinators and how to establish plants that will attract them.

Three-fourths of the world's flowering plants depend on pollinators to reproduce.

According to the experts in the educational tent at the show, bees, bats and other animal pollinators face many challenges in the modern world. Habitat loss, disease, parasites and environmental contaminants have all contributed to the decline of many species of pollinators.

Variety of pollinators

Bees are the main pollinators for fruits and vegetables. There are over 4000 species of bees native to North America. They nest underground in twigs and debris or in dead trees.

Nectar-seeking butterflies are daytime garden visitors, and moths are their nocturnal counterpart. These popular creatures pollinate many plants.

Hummingbirds are the most common avian pollinators in the continental U.S. These tiny wonders prefer tubular flowers in bright warm colors, especially red. Two species of bat are major pollinators in the Southwest.

There are also many thousands of beetle species. According to the USDA, 40 percent of all insects are actually beetles. Flies and other insects are common flower visitors and pollinators.

How to help

To encourage pollinators, provide a habitat that will help them thrive.

·The colorful displays around the educational tent showed the variety of plants that will do just that.

·Shrubs and trees such as dogwood, blueberry, cherry, plum, willow and poplar provide pollen or nectar or both early in spring when food is scarce.

·Choose a mixture of plants for spring, summer and fall. Different flower colors, shapes and scents will attract a wide variety of pollinators.

·Reduce or eliminate pesticide use. If it is needed, use it sparingly and responsibly.

·Accept some plant damage on plants meant to provide habitat for butterfly and moth larvae.

·Provide clean water for pollinators with shallow dish bowl, birdbath with half-submerged stones for perches.

·Leave dead tree trunks in the landscape for wood-nesting bees and beetles.