Visiting the Arboretum: All members and visitors need to make a reservation in advance of their visit to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. We hope to see you soon!
by Ping Honzay, beekeeper and education program coordinator
In honor of National Pollinator Week June 21-27, we invite you to learn more about the critical role pollinators play in our world and observe pollinators in their habitat.
There are thousands of pollinator species in Minnesota, including ants, flies, butterflies, beetles, birds and more, but bees are probably the first thing that comes to mind when we think of pollinators. There are more than 400 species of bees in Minnesota. Of these, only one species – the western honey bee (Apis mellifera) – makes honey. Honey bees aren’t native to the United States — they were brought over by Europeans.
Learn more about Minnesota’s Pollinators from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and grow your own landscape to help bees and other pollinators with advice from University of Minnesota Extension.
Although the Tashjian Bee and Pollinator Discovery Center at the Arboretum is closed, there are still plenty of opportunities to see pollinators at the Arb. Here are some pollinators to look for when you visit:
Metallic Green Sweat Bees
As their name suggests, this group of bees are bright, shiny green – some also have stripes on their abdomens (back end of their bodies), while others are green all over. These flying jewels can be found on plants all over the Arb! They’re small, so try looking extra close at flowers to see if you can catch a look at them. I like watching for them on roses, as they really stand out against the roses’ open shape and color.
Mason bees or blue orchard bees are beautiful dark blue. These bees are active in early spring, and are better pollinators than honey bees! They’re often seen pollinating fruit trees, like apples (hence the “orchard bee” label). We have some native bee “hotels” at the Bee Center that have old cut plant stems in them – if you see any of these stems plugged with mud, that’s a sign that a mason bee was nesting there.
Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee
The first bumble bee and first bee in the continental United States to be placed on the federal endangered species list (in 2017). In 2019, it became the state bee of Minnesota. This bee has been spotted in a couple of places at the Arb, including in the Bennett-Johnson Prairie and near the Elizabeth Carr Slade Perennial Garden.
With their widely-recognized orange and black markings, Monarch butterflies are a welcome sight in the garden. They love Blazing Star (Liatris spicata). You’ll also find monarch caterpillars feeding on milkweed. (Milkweed is a great plant for other pollinators too! See the photo at the top of this post.) The Spring Peeper Meadow and the Bennett-Johnson Prairie are both good places to look for monarchs in the height of summer. There are also lots of Liatris planted by in the Pollinator Garden by the Bee Center, and in the new pollinator plantings around the Event Lawns at the Farm at the Arb.
- Only female bees can sting – that’s true for every species of bee on earth (and there are over 20,000 bee species!). The stinger is a modified ovipositor (egg-laying body part), so only female bees have stingers.
- Bees see different colors than we do. They can see ultraviolet (UV) color that we can’t see, but they’re red color blind. Some flowers have ultraviolet markings to show the bees where to go!
- Bumble bees can sense electric fields around flowers. When a bee visits a flower, it changes the electric field slightly – and bumble bees can sense this change! Scientists think that this tells a bumble bee if another bee has recently visited a flower, meaning that there’s likely less food in the flower so the bumble bee might skip over it while foraging.
- North Dakota is consistently the top honey producing state in the United States. Many commercial beekeepers move their honey bee hives around the country throughout the year, and many of them move their hives to North Dakota during the summer to feed on the flowers there.