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Published December 27, 2008, 12:00 AM

Bee houses can encourage helpful insects

It’s one thing to attract roving honeybees, butterflies or hummingbirds to your flowering plants or trees. It’s another to keep them. Try placing a few butterfly houses, bee blocks or bat houses around your yard to encourage these hard-working pollinators to become long-term tenants.

By: By DeanFosdick , For The Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun

It’s one thing to attract roving honeybees, butterflies or hummingbirds to your flowering plants or trees. It’s another to keep them.

Try placing a few butterfly houses, bee blocks or bat houses around your yard to encourage these hard-working pollinators to become long-term tenants.

Inexpensive ($15 range) bee houses are proving popular with gardeners looking for pollinators, particularly the ground-dwelling kind.

The four habitat requirements for luring wildlife — food, water, shelter and space — apply to beneficial insects, too. It pays to know something about the life cycle of pollinators if you’re to succeed at attracting them.

Take orchard mason bees, for example. They can be found across North America and are great pollinators for flowers and flowering fruit trees. Some entomologists believe the docile mason bees are more efficient than their larger cousins, the honeybees, although they don’t hive or produce centralized honey supplies.

“They’re so industrious, you only need three to pollinate an ornamental tree,” said Kathy LaLiberte, director of gardening at Gardener’s Supply Co. in Burlington, Vt.

These solitary bees tend to place their pollen, nectar and eggs in hollow reeds or holes in trees that have been drilled by woodpeckers or beetles. The female then places a plug made of mud to protect the nest before building another. Mature bees emerge from the tubes the next spring.

A typical mason bee house that you can buy is built around 30 or more bamboo tubes. After laying eggs in the tubes and leaving behind some pollen and nectar, the female deposits a mud plug and then repeats the procedure a half-dozen times per tube.

Growers can do many things to enrich their surroundings even if space is limited, said Kimberly Winter, habitats program manager for the National Wildlife Federation.

“One thing is stop spraying pesticides,” Winter said. “Use biological products like tobacco and soapy mixtures on (insect-stressed) plants.

“The small steps people can take will help all wildlife, not just pollinators. That’s good for the natural world and good for the growers, too.”

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