Feeding the Pollinators

Many people think of honeybees when they think of pollinators. Of course the honeybees are incredibly important, but we also have 108 species of wild pollinators in Boulder County. Wyatt says he has seen at least 12 species of wild pollinators at the same time on our farm. We would need an entomologist to truly figure out how many pollinators we have and identify them.

From three-inch sphinx moths to quarter-inch wasps, we have a great diversity of pollinators and they are not easy to identify. There are orchard bees, squash bees and several kinds of bumblebees. Several types of wasp also pollinate while feeding on nectar.

Bumble bee and honeybee on onion flower

A bumblebee and a honeybee get nectar from an onion flower.

We need the pollinators to do the work of pollinating crops like zucchini and melons. But they need a source of food (nectar and pollen) from about March to November. When you have a mono-crop (like alfalfa or almonds), the pollinators only get food for a very brief period when the plants are flowering. In order to survive, they need food the entire time from spring to fall.

Wyatt holding flowering turnips

Honeybee on flowering turnips

These turnips didn’t get harvested last fall. They are no longer fit for human consumption as they have flowered. But the flowers provide a much-needed source of nectar in early April.

After we are done harvesting our crops, we will often let them go to flower to provide a source of food for the pollinators. We have also started planting flower strips in areas around the farm with the intention of providing food for the pollinators. In this way, we cultivate a healthy population of wild pollinators to do the work of pollinating our food crops for us.

Bumble bee on arugula flowers

Flowering arugula

The bumblebee on the left is enjoying some nectar in a huge field of arugula that Wyatt let go to flower.

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