In this July 17, 2020, file photo, a bumblebee flies near a lavender bush in the International Peace Gardens in Salt Lake City, Utah. Credit: Kristin Murphy / The Deseret News via AP

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When most people think about saving the “bees” or protecting pollinators, I expect their minds most often go to honeybees. What many people don’t realize is that honeybees are not native to North America and can displace native bees by outcompeting them for pollen and nectar and transmitting diseases to them. Ironically, there are likely more honeybees present on the planet than ever before, yet our native bees, along with many other native insects, are in serious decline. Additionally, our native bees are known to be much more efficient pollinators of our native plants and crops than honeybees since they have evolved with them over millennia.

Native bees include bumblebees, sweat bees, mason bees, squash bees and others. These bees don’t form hives like honeybees, and they usually nest in the ground, in native bunch grasses or in the stems of plants left behind from the previous year. This is why when people spray lawns with pesticides or remove all old plant material from garden beds, it can harm these bee species by either poisoning them or removing their habitat. To really protect pollinators, I think the best things you can do are to avoid chemicals in your lawn and garden, delay garden “clean up” to late spring (or don’t do it at all), leave some areas of bare soil for ground nesting bees (like bumblebees), and plant native plants. These steps also help other pollinators like butterflies and moths, as well as beloved insects like fireflies.

Rachel Smith