Bees and Trees

Bees and other Pollinators

Bucks County is home to hundreds of species of native bees (discover more about native Pennsylvania bees here) and thousands of species of other pollinators. When we hear the word "Pollinator" we often think of bees and butterflies but did you know, there are also many species of beetles, ants, and flies that are great pollinators too?
Two native bumblebees on flower

Not only do pollinators come in a variety of forms, but they also have a variety of functions as well. The special relationship between monarch butterflies and milkweed is well known, but did you know there are actually many similar relationships between pollinators and flowering plants? In fact, usually everything about a flower, from it's size and shape, to when it blooms, and what color it is, often evolved side by side with a specific type or species of pollinator. 

Native bees, like bumble bees, do many special jobs including floral sonication or "buzz pollination" which is where a flower requires a bee to vibrate in a certain way before the flower will release its pollen. Honeybees do not do buzz pollination so they can not pollinate many plants such as blueberries and tomatoes. That's why its important to support all sorts of pollinators!  

The best way to support a diversity of pollinators is to have a diversity of native plants. While other flowers might still provide nectar, native plants give pollinators habitat as well as food and often are designed with all stages of their lifecycle in mind providing more than just the adult stage food. Increasing biodiversity of plants also increases the quantity and diversity of other insects. This provides food for birds and other wildlife.

Did you know that 96% of terrestrial birds feed their nestlings insects, not berries or seeds. Eliminating insects from your yards and gardens eliminates food for baby birds. Birds can not live on seeds alone. If you want butterflies you need caterpillars and if you want beautiful birds you need to feed baby birds. Insects are not a nuisance, they are the protein infrastructure of the world.
baby birds

Trees and Ecosystems

Bucks County's climate is driven by it being in the Piedmont Region. Piedmont coming from the Latin "pedemontium", meaning "at the foot of the mountains." This plateau region has a Temperate Continental Climate with Appalachian Oak as the dominant tree species and is part of the greater Eastern Hardwood Forest Ecosystem. A single Oak tree can support over 500 species of caterpillars and almost 150 species of birds.

oak tree

Bucks County, like much of the United States, has seen significant reductions in tree canopy over the last hundred years. These slow growing hardwoods are hard to replace but as the Chinese proverb goes "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now." Restoring native biodiversity does not only improve pollinator diversity and health, it also improves overall ecosystem function. These ecosystem functions that include carbon storage, water retention, and shading, improve the resiliency of the land to combat pollution, to prevent and withstand flooding events, and to reduce the effects of heat islands. 

Over the last several hundred years, commercial and residential development have been the driving force behind tree loss. However, pressure from invasive pests, disease, and climate change have been increasing in recent years . 

One insect  that is causing significant tree canopy loss is the Emerald Ash Borer, shown here, which is an invasive pest from Asia with an intense kill rate. Impact reports show that once an Ash tree becomes infected with the Emerald Ash Borer, it has a 99.9% chance it will die as fewer than 1 in every 1000 infected trees avoid death. The sudden loss of these trees gives increased opportunities for invasive species to take hold. If you suspect emerald ash borers are attacking your trees, contact the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
Emerald Ash Borer Insect

Demanding development that incorporates native trees and plants will not only help wildlife and pollinators, but it improves our mental health too.

If you are interested in supporting Bees or Trees in your area, consider advocating to make your community a Bee City or Tree City or there are many programs that can be accomplished in your own backyard such as the Homegrown National Park program.