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Pollinator Poppycosh!

Aside from a spelling variation of a certain culinary dish, the modern use of “poppycosh” is the description of a random shout of joy.  Why Pollinator Poppycosh?  It’s that time of year to celebrate pollinators (and it’s fun to say)!  National Pollinator Week is June 20 – 26, 2011.

A pollinator by definition is any sort of animal that carries pollen from one seed plant to another, unwittingly aiding the plant in its reproduction.  Most pollinators do this in the process of feeding off of the nectar of the plant.  This busy process has resounding effects.  The pollinated blossoms mature to fruits that feed wildlife and people and insure the genetic diversity on our planet.

Here at the IMA, our 152 acre campus is filled with gardens of diverse plantings.  Not only does this create a year-round experience for our visitors, but it provides a lush habitat for pollinators.  The IMA’s Horticulture staff has also purposefully introduced pollinators on the grounds of the museum.  If you’re a follower of Irvin Etienne’s blogs, you’ve probably read about our honey bees.  It’s been quite the experience for us as we learn to care for and manage the hive properly!

A healthy hive of honey bees can house upwards of 40,000 – 80,000 bees at one time.  About 98% of those thousands of bees are worker bees; the ones out each day working in our gardens.

We’ve also encouraged a native pollinator to work alongside the honey bees; the Orchard Mason Bee.

In his article written for the IMA Horticultural Society newsletter, Jonathon Hensley, IMA Horticulturist, explains more about this “newbee” in our gardens:

Ornamental gardens and vegetable gardens alike benefit with the addition of helpful pollinators such as the Orchard Mason Bee or Osmia lignaria propinqua Cresson.  The Orchard Mason Bee is a Native of North America, specifically areas west of the Rocky Mountains, and has a distinct look and many distinct features when compared to the common honey bee normally seen in gardens.  Interestingly, the Orchard Mason Bee is black in color, which helps to absorb sunlight and warm their wings to a flight-capable temperature (approximately 55° F).  As a North American Native, Orchard Mason Bees get going much earlier in the season than honey bees in anticipation of the very first flowers.  Unlike honey bees, they do not produce honey or a hive, but rather over-winter in cocoons as fully-formed bees.New for this season, a colony of Orchard Mason Bees has been added to the Gene and Rosemary Tanner Orchard of Oldfields at the IMA to assist in the pollination and fruit set of our orchard apple trees.  Last year, both orchard apple varieties (Malus pumila ‘Gold Rush’ and Malus pumila ‘Enterprise’) had tremendous yields due to the abundance of overgrown flowering wood on the trees.  Over this past winter, both tree varieties were pruned heavily to start managing their shape and overall size.  As a result, this spring came with many fewer flowers on the apple trees.  It is our hope that the addition of this new and energetic colony of bees will help us take advantage of every bloom this year.  Please come by this season to see them in action!

So you may be asking yourself, “What can I do to work alongside our allies in this green and blooming world?”  An important first step is education.  Learn who the pollinators are and what they need to survive.  Pollinator Partnership has a great website packed with an abundance of information.  One of their resources is the “Pollinator Friendly Planting Guide”.  Divided regionally, Indiana’s guide is a 24 page document filled with facts, lists and charts.  Indiana’s DNR also has a website loaded with informative links.

Once you’ve got the facts down and begin to practice “pollinator stewardship,” the next step is to educate others.  Celebrate this year’s National Pollinator Week by sharing with someone the value our busy garden friends!  And poppycosh with me – HURRAY POLLINATORS!

Filed under: Art and Nature Park, Horticulture

8 Responses to “Pollinator Poppycosh!”

  • avatar
    irvin Says:

    Excellent Gwyn!

  • avatar
    Denise Says:

    Great Job Gwyn!!!

  • avatar
    Paul Says:

    Mmmmm, poppycosh!

    Well done!

  • avatar
    Fan Says:

    What happened to the Indiana native bees? Why use a Western Bee here? Have they taken the place of the local bees…or will they?

  • avatar
    Katie Says:

    i’ll be looking for pollinators next week, thanks

  • avatar
    Victor Spencer Says:

    Thank you so much for such a nice blog. Pollinators like bees, butterflies, humming birds, bats etc. are so important in nature. The more we understand about these extraordinary creatures the more likely we will be to help to protect them.

  • avatar

    Interesting topic. Love it.

  • avatar
    Gwyn Says:

    Thanks everyone for the great comments!
    Pollinator Week is coming to an end, but please continue to spread the interest about pollinators. Another fun, on-going project is The Great Sunflower Project, found at – check it out!

    @Fan – thanks for the great questions. The western Mason Bee was chosen for the Orchard because that’s what we could find available for purchase at the time. There are 4,000+ native bees in the U.S. and the Horticulturists at the IMA certainly see many different types each day while out working in the gardens. At this point, there doesn’t seem to be any danger of the western bees dominating the Indiana bees. Having them on the IMA grounds just simply increases diversity. In fact, their new home (pictured above) may invite some the eastern Mason Bees to nest in our Orchard as well. We’ll see!

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