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Help pollinators by planting with for year-round blooms in mind

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Honey bees collect pollen on their legs to bring it back to the hive. These bachelor buttons are a long-blooming source of pollen for bees. Last week, local, state and national agencies encouraged the public to plant more flowering vegetation, cut back on pesticide use and learn about the amazing insects all around us as part of National Pollinator Week.

Pollinators have been struggling all over the world in recent decades due to increased pesticide use and loss of habitat. They are an important part of complicated ecosystems and are needed to produce one-third of the food supply that requires pollination.

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley also released a discussion draft of the Pollinator Recovery Act of 2016. The bill will be formerly introduced to Congress later this year after the public has had a chance to discuss it.

The bill calls for the United State Department of Agriculture and partner federal agencies to expand habitat for pollinators by 3 million acres; giving the USDA the flexibility to adopt regionally appropriate planting strategies; competitive grant funding opportunities; financial incentives and technical assistance for agricultural producers who adopt pollinator friendly practices; support for researching the greatest threats to managed honey bees and wild pollinators; and funding for pollinator health and population tracking.

The nonprofit organization Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is asking people across the nation to plant pollen and nectar sources for pollinators to feed on, leave patches of bare ground and brush piles for habitat, stop using pesticides, and sign the Pollinator Protection Pledge at xerces.org.

Providing wildflower-rich habitat is one of the most important things individuals can do. It’s important to plant flowers, shrubs and trees with overlapping bloom times that will support pollinators spring through fall, even when other blooms are scarce.

In the early spring, dandelions are one of the most important food sources for honey bees before much has bloomed. The Xerces Society offers a few more suggestions for year-round blooms for struggling pollinators.

• Early blooms: Bigleaf lupine, common camas, riverbank lupine, Oregon grape, Oregon vine maple.

• Early to mid-blooms: Douglas meadowfoam, meadow checkmallow, slender clarkia, blueblossom, Cascara buckthorn, Nootka rose, Pacific ninebark, salal.

• Middle blooms: Large-flowered collomia, selfheal, showy milkweed, buckbrush, Douglas spiraea.

• Late blooms: Canada goldenrod, Douglas aster, Hall’s aster, Puget Sound gumweed, Ocean spray, coyotebrush.

Fascinating honey bees

• Honey bees visit about 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey

• Honey bees fly about 55,000 miles to bring in enough nectar to make a pound of honey

• In the peak of the season, there are about 60,000 bees in a hive

• The average worker bees makes about 1/12 teaspoon in her lifetime

• Honey bees die if they sting, so it is a last resort

• Honey bees only feed on flowers and plants

• Honey bees are often mixed up with more aggressive insects such as yellow jackets and wasps

• Male bees are called drones and do not have stingers. Their only job is mate with the queen.

• Honey bees seen gathering pollen and nectar from flowers are female

• Honey bees have four wings latched into pairs by hooks

• Foraging bees perform a figure-eight dance to communicate the direction and distance of nectar and pollen sources to other bees.