100 Plants to Feed the Bees | A Humble Book Review
Good morning! A few weeks ago, I was asked by the lovely team at Storey Publishing to review one of their latest publications, 100 Plants to Feed the Bees by The Xerces Society. Of course, I had to give myself a little background information on The Xerces Society before diving in. Wow! What an amazing group of people. They are an "international nonprofit organization that helps to protect wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats" (aka, pollinators and other bugs!). They work with science-based partners including citizens, farmers, policymakers, land managers, educators, and scientists to help make their goals a reality. I love that their main goal is not only to do something about the issue of losing much needed insects to human activity, but to educate everyone further on it. I think that can be even more important when you have the power to make a difference. Educate others and start a discussion!
Of course, I was smitten to write a review for their new book. I am obviously very interested in bees. Have I talked about that much here? We were supposed to get a hive of bees this year as well as chickens, but as that plan fell through, we decided we might try next year. Honestly, I think I am going to need some practice first! Thankfully, I have some incredible friends in the local area that know a beekeeper who might be interested in mentoring me in the art of beekeeping. How cool is that?! There are, however, many more of us, myself included, that are not currently beekeepers nor do we want to be. And that's okay!
Here's why: You can still make a difference in restoring natural habitats and food sources to pollinators by planting a garden geared towards their preferences. It's that easy! 100 Plants to Feed the Bees is the perfect resource for which kinds of native plants you can put into a pollinator garden of your very own.
A few weeks ago, I was walking around my local garden center and happened upon this really cool little wooden house. It kind of looked like a birdhouse but with little canes of hollowed out bamboo all over it. It said it was a bee house, and it was only ten dollars. I was intrigued! I could keep bees in this little house? After I started reading what exactly the house was for, I was even more interested. It provided a home for native bees. Not honey bees, necessarily, at least not the kind you keep for the production of honey. But native bees, the kind that pollinate plants and flowers and help our environment continue to survive - we often overlook them. Did you know that honey bees only account for a small percentage of bees and pollinators in general? They're the most well known of all of the pollinators, and the most discussed in my opinion, because they perform about 80% of the world's pollination, and they also make the delicious honey that we all love to eat.
In reality, there are about 20,000 species of bees, and only 7 of them are honey bees. The rest are bumble bees, stingless bees, and solitary bees, which account for the majority of the bee population. These native bees, though they don't provide us with honey, still need to be fed and protected. That is where this wonderful book comes in handy!
I was surprised to find that it was filled with a wonderful introductory section, with just the perfect amount of information on how pollination works, why it is important, and what you can do about it. My favorite part about opening this book, though, was the preface. It talked about leading individuals in the fight to end pesticide use, who worked to study pollinators and how they were beneficial to our planet. I just really loved knowing that there were people out there who just decided to sit and watch their bees, to study them without prompting, who took an interest in something as silly to another person as watching a honey bee all day. I think that's the best way to spend a day, don't you?
Along with their information about pollination, there is also a wonderful section on why planting native plants is important. This was something I hadn't really thought about or realized. I figured I could just type online which plants pollinators liked best and be done with it there. I think that this book could be a really great tool for someone who wants to help bees and other pollinators, but doesn't know much about flowers or plants at all. There are native pollinators in the area that you live in that enjoy specific plants! This is extremely important.
I really loved that the plant types were easy to navigate. I found myself flipping through pages and stopping when I saw a wildflower that was beautiful. There are so many choices! And while one might feel overwhelmed looking through 200 pages of native plants, it is probably one of the least overwhelming encyclopedia-style gardening books that I have opened. Each flower takes up only two pages and has a short synopsis on its origins, medicinal/decorative uses, attractiveness to particular pollinators, and recommended species/varieties. These descriptions are accompanied by gorgeous photography work and different key icons that are attractive to the eye and easy to remember. I was really impressed - mostly because I found myself turning page after to page to see what other native plants were from the area I live in! Along with flowering plants, there are also suggestions for trees and shrubs as well as introduced flowering plants and shrubs. So if there is a certain type of plant that you love, but it is not necessarily native to your area, there are sections to help see what you might be able to plant!
To conclude, I was wonderfully pleased with this new addition to my library. I hope to use it as a guide to plant my flower garden this year, and hopefully it will be ready and flowering beautifully for the bees we keep in the next season. My only disappointment with this particular book is that it is based on North American native plants only. So for my international readers, this particular publication won't be much help to you! If you do happen to live in North America, I couldn't recommend this book more! (:
Are you planting a pollinator garden this year? What are you looking forward to planting?
You can purchase a copy of 100 Plants to Feed the Bees here.