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Why plant gardens for NATIVE POLLINATORS? According to the National Academy of Sciences, almost 75% of flowering plants on earth depend to some extent on pollinators to set fruit and seed; and 1/3 of humankind's foods come from these plants. In the U.S. many native pollinators (bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, flies and beetles) and non-native pollinators (honeybees) are in severe decline. Though imported honeybees are important crop pollinators, many crops (tomatoes, apples, and squash for example) are more effectively pollinated by native pollinators. And with honeybee numbers declining, the loss of habitat decimating our native species is dumping most of our pollinator "eggs" into precarious "basket".  Bees are our most important group of pollinators, as they are they only group that gather pollen to bring back to their nest for their offspring.

MEET ONE OF OUR IMPORTANT NATIVES: the BUMBLE BEE (genus Bombus) one of the first bees to emerge in the Spring. There are nearly 50 species in the US and 9 in Illinois. Though most native bees are solitary nesters, Bumble Bees nest socially in annual colonies. At the end of the summer, most Bumble Bees die, leaving only a few mated queens to hibernate. In the Spring, the queens emerge. Each queen founds a new colony as a ball like wax cells in a ground cavity such as an abandoned rodent burrow.  Bumble Bees can buzz-pollinate (honeybees cannot), flowers that require vibration to release their pollen, such as tomatoes. There has been a recent abrupt decline in several Bumble Bee species.
                                                                                                                                        by Judy Groskind

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