Let it bee: Welcoming local pollinators to your backyard


ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – On a sunny warm day most people don’t like bees invading their patio time. But bees, butterflies, and other pollinators are under threat by habitat loss, pesticides, and disease. The Missouri Department of Conservation is asking you to “bee-friend” native pollinators.

Missouri is home to around 450 species of native bees, including bumblebees, carpenter bees, and sweat bees. Many fear being stung, but Urban Wildlife Biologist Erin Shank says most native bees are harmless.

“Most of them are ground-nesting, solitary bees, so they don’t behave like the honeybee, which is the bee most people are familiar with, which is not a native bee,” Shank said. “They don’t have a hive that they are defending. And with those few species, only the females can sting, not the males. So a large number of the bees that you’re observing in your yard can’t actually sting you.”

Bees do the crucial work of pollinating flowering plants, providing one in every three bites of food we eat.

“So we wouldn’t have things like strawberries and almonds and blueberries and apples and… cucumbers, tomatoes you know. All the more flavorful and nutritious items that we enjoy on our plates are thanks to pollinators.”

Sometimes pollinators, like the honeybee, swarm or hive in unsafe places and need to be removed.

“We’ve seen them on cars before. We see them in barbecue pits and a number of different areas,” said Jay Everitt, technical director with Rottler Pest Solutions. “But a lot of times if you just leave them alone they’re going to move on.”

If they do need to go, Everitt says professionals can remove the threat but also preserve the bees.

“We’ve got some specialty beekeepers that can actually do a trap out on those,” he said. “And they will literally transfer those bees over to a hive and then relocate them to a place that’s a little safer for them and humans.”

You can support pollinators by incorporating native plants with colorful blossoms in your landscaping. Flowering trees like redbuds and American plums are great too.

“Over the past year as many of us have found our only safe recreation to be outdoors we have a new appreciation for outdoor spaces, which are largely thanks to pollinators for pollinating plants so they can germinate and have generations of flowering plants and forests and prairies across our region,” Shank said.

No yard? No problem. Shank said residents who live in urban areas can offer bees native flowers in a planting box or pot or by starting a community garden.

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