Have you ever wondered how our bumblebees survive our harsh winters? If bees fly when it is too cold, their flight muscles can "freeze" in mid flight (chill coma). The two-spotted bumblebee is known for having the lowest chill coma temperature at around 45 degrees F. Our winters are much, much colder than that. How do they do it? Generally, the queens will spend the winter underground in an energy conservation state called diapause until the weather warms again in the spring. And here in the Keweenaw, we know that winter can go on for a very long time so they must be pretty patient.
Here in Copper Country, it looks like a great year for everything apples: applesauce, cider, and of course pie! We can thank the busy bees of spring for that. Mason bees, Mining bees, Carpenter bees, honeybees, and Bumblebee queens to be more precise. Without their help, our pie a la mode would just be ice cream. 9/20/2016
Who's tired of mowing their lawn? With the recent rains, the grass is growing like crazy. Help yourself out and the pollinators by planting some native wildflowers (even a small patch would help). Not only will the wildflowers provide a source of nectar for pollinators, but it will decrease the size of your lawn. Yay! Less mowing! 9/13/2016
Goldenrod is blooming! This native wildflower often gets blamed for causing summer and early fall allergies when in reality the culprit is usually ragweed. A variety of pollinators love goldenrod, including the goldenrod soldier beetle. The larvae of the soldier beetle consume aphids and other soft bodied insects while the adults feed on nectar and pollen from summer and early fall blooming plants. And as they go from flower to flower they do some pollinating along the way! 8/30/2016
Did you know that the often-feared Baldfaced Hornet is a pollinator? They visit flowers to collect nectar and pollen, but they also are meat eaters. They are often found eating caterpillars and aphids which can be devastating garden pests. So think twice before destroying a nest near your garden. 8/16/2016
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For the most part, honeybees are pretty calm and docile. But when they have honeystores to protect, they have a sting and they will use it! In this video, 2 bees remove an intruder in their hive while foragers bring back a variety of nectar and pollen. No rest for these busy little bees!
The Monarch Butterfly is a widely recognized butterfly in the U.S. with a fascinating life cycle which includes a massive migration. In the summer months, Monarchs can be found in the U.P., but they can't withstand the cold winters. So they migrate south, like many birds, to the Southern U.S. and Mexico to overwinter. The adults pollinate many varieties of wildflowers as they feed on nectar, but the caterpillars need milkweed to survive. Keep an eye out for these beautiful pollinators in your wildflower gardens!
Who loves blueberries? It is getting close to harvest time! Blueberries flower fairly early in spring and honey bees really don't like to work in the cold, wind, and rain/snow. Luckily, our native bees are more tolerant of the weather. A mining bee (not copper mining) called Andrena carolina is a specialist at pollinating blueberries. Enjoy your blueberries and thank the little pollinators! 7/26/2016
It's a hummingbird! No...wait a second. When we hear the word "pollinator" we think of bees, but other tiny creatures also take part in this important job. The hummingbird clearwing moth is native to the Upper Peninsula. The adult feeds on nectar from a variety of plants and in the process, transports pollen from flower to flower.
The native, beautiful, and delicious thimbleberry is a great pollinator species for butterflies and bees. The Keweenaw is famous for these berries which are made into jam or eaten right off the shrub. Both birds and mammals have been enjoying the delicate berries for a very, very long time. Yet another reason to thank these little pollinators who do a big job.
The Copper Country Strawberry Festival originated in 1949, but the crop was an important one to the area well before then. Bumblebees and other native bees are important for growing great crops of strawberries. The more pistils of the strawberry flower that get pollinated, the better the shape and size of the strawberry will be. If only some of the pistils get pollinated, the strawberry will be deformed. Thank a bee the next time you enjoy strawberry shortcake! 7/5/2016
Generations of the native Canadian Tiger Swallowtail butterfly have quietly visited Keweenaw gardens far before humans even called these places gardens. Still today, new generations of adults flutter flower to flower seeking nectar, their sole source of food, transferring pollen along their way. These tiny creatures, called pollinators, often go unnoticed themselves, but were they to disappear, our dinner plates would probably not look the same. Step out of your busy day and into a garden or field of wildflowers because Keweenaw summers are short but sweet. 6/28/2016
Dandelions aren't all bad. They provide much needed early season nectar and pollen for our native pollinators such as bumblebees as well as for the introduced honeybees. These tiny creatures can have a big impact on crop yields or crop quality of many of our favorite fruits and vegetables. In some cases, crops are completely dependent on these insect pollinators.
Last updated: July 13, 2017