Category Archives: BEES

Seven ways to help pollinators (especially honey bees) by thinking Slow-Mow May

By now most people have heard of No Mow May as way to help pollinators. However, the idea has not gained widespread acceptance due to most folks obsession with keeping a manicured, cut short, grassy lawn. The Brown County Beekeepers would like to encourage everyone to think “Slow-Mow May” instead. What does this mean you ask? Well, if you normally mow every few days – take an additional 2 or 3 days between mowing and put your mower on a higher setting. This allows more dandelions to grow (early food for honey bees) and keeps more ground cover in place for the ground hibernating pollinators that have not yet emerged.

Pollinators like native bees, moths, butterflies, beetles and wasps are hibernating in our gardens and landscapes. There are also other critters and insects (i.e. fireflies and amphibians) using our landscape as habitat. Loss of habitat is one of the primary reasons for declining insect and pollinator populations.

And don’t just stop helping pollinators in May. Here are steps that can be taken year round.

Not too EARLY – to help hibernating pollinators and other insects and amphibians, wait
until there is a steady temperature of 50 degrees to begin spring mowing and clean up. They are still hibernating in your garden.

Leave the leaves! If you can’t bring yourself to turn your entire yard into pollinator friendly plantings – think about converting just a portion of your yard. Maybe that spot that is mainly out of sight? Every little bit helps! Remember leaves provide critical habitat to over wintering pollinators (bees, moths, butterflies, caterpillars) and other creatures. They are also a natural mulch, supplying vital nutrients back to the soil. If you feel you need to rake, be gentle and rake leaves into garden beds where they will help to hold the moisture and reduce weeds.

Don’t cut stems and stalks – Some native bees hibernate in the pithy stems and stalks. When tidying up your garden, consider leaving stems and stalks as is, OR if cutting back, leave about 15 inches standing. This will allow new plant growth to grow up and over old stems. Previous years stems serve as valuable nesting sites for native bees. By maintaining these stems, you’re providing essential habitat for these important pollinators. Lastly, don’t burn or toss those cut stems!! While some native bees may have emerged already, other species emerge later in the spring/summer. Instead, loosely pile or gently rake material and set aside so they can emerge at a later date.

“If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”

— E. O. Wilson An American Biologist and Naturalist, considered one of the greatest natural scientists of our time.

Avoid Using Pesticides – Bees are our most important pollinators, and they are insects. So are butterflies like the monarch. Using insecticides will kill these insects. Herbicides will kill important native plants such as milkweed that pollinators rely upon as a food source and a place to raise young. Make the commitment to avoid using chemicals and to maintain your garden in a natural, organic way. Although we encourage people to go herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and rodenticides free, if there are any questions about what you are using in their yards and gardens, you can look it up here:

Plant for Pollinators – Plant in clusters to create a “target’ for pollinators to find and plant for continuous bloom throughout the growing season from spring to fall. For assistance in planning your garden for Northeast Wisconsin visit the Wisconsin Conservation organization site. A useful guide to native Wisconsin plants are are helpful for pollinators can be found here.

Provide Water – Bees are thirsty. In fact, on hot days, bees cease all foraging except for water. If you notice bees visiting your garden often, put out a water source for them, like a decorative fountain, a bird feeder, or a birdbath. But make sure there’s a landing spot for them — they don’t like to get their feet wet, so they need pebbles, twigs, or trim to land on while they sip.

Go Organic – Beyond your garden, go organic in as many ways possible – such as buying organic products and food. Supporting sustainable, pollinator-friendly farms keeps them in business – and the bees and pollinators safe! Don’t forget to hit up your local Farmer’s Market too. Even if they are not “certified” organic, many small local farms are much more cautious about pesticide use. Furthermore, buying organic goods lessens the demand for conventional (toxic) products. This is better for everyone and everything, including your personal health.

Wisconsin Honey Bee Supplier list

The Wisconsin honey bee supplier list has been updated with 2024 information as of February 15, 2024. This guide is meant to help you when sourcing packages, nucs or queens and should be used as reference only. The club does not endorse any specific supplier – please contact the supplier for details, order forms, availability and any price changes.

If you know of local Wisconsin suppliers NOT on this list, please contact a member of the BCBA leadership team and we will add them.