Gardening for Native Bees with Adrian Fisher

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By Deb Quantock McCarey

Contributing reporter/Nature blogger

I first heard about Adrian Fisher, the practical ecologist and ecosystem gardener from Oak Park, at a table with native plant landscaping enthusiasts at the 2015 Wild Things Conference in Chicago.

I missed Adrian's talk about creating habitats for wild bees in gardens that day, but did put her topic on my back burner, knowing I would grab her for a garden gabfest come summer.

In early July, I circled back to schedule a bee visit in her big back yard, after reading "Beyond Honeybees: Now Wild Bees and Butterflies May be in Trouble," in the April issue of Wired Magazine.


The bad new is that the Wired article postulates that the foreseeable future for native bees, or wild bees, as that writer penned it, is pretty grim, related to studies organized by the Xerces Society.  They are the group that work for the conservation of native bees, and other invertebrates.

Experts from Xerces say that in the U.S. nearly 1/3 of North American Bumblebee species are declining.  Other studies, the article states, have uncovered similar trends.

Some good news is that according to a USDA Forest Service and Pollinator Partnership Publicationcurrently about 4,000 species of Native bees are still buzzing about, pollinating our crops and wildflowers. 

More positive news is that we, as backyard gardeners, can help the native bees -- and all species of pollinators, including birds, by how we choose to maintain our gardens, and  cultivate our edible and flowering plants.

On a recent sunny Saturday in mid-July, I  headed over to Adrian's backyard native plant garden to do some bee spotting, as well as to experience the hows and whys of her ecological gardening practice.

As we zig-zagged through her carbon natural landscape, in a couple hours time, I did spot and ID about 7 different bee species of native bees with the assistance of Adrian, who is the sustainability coordinator at Triton Community College, as well as a long-time volunteer and apprentice steward with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, and the author of Ecological Gardening, a blog where she writes about the plight of native bees, their habitat needs, and the roster of native plants that attract them, plus other topics.

Afterwards, she shared with me her page of resources on the topic, and this, "Creating habitat is simple, you provide flowering plants from April through October, preferably native.  You don't use pesticides.  You don't use insecticides.  You don't use fungicides, and you provide kind of a messy garden."

So, dear gardeners, now it's your turn.  Take about 10 minutes time out of your busy schedule to watch our latest DBB "On the Road" video.  Then, do get buzzzzzzzzy in your big backyard.  It is that easy to make a difference.

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