Monday, December 12, 2011

HMEG in the Good 100 Challenge for 'Midway Tool Lending Library: green alleys and gardens'


Here is a chance to make something happen! The Hamline Midway Environment Group ( HMEG ) offered up this sharing idea in the Good 100 Challenge and the week of voting is nearly up.  Thursday it closes.  We have not done too much on PR here, so trailing in the pack. But who knows? If we all vote and ask another to vote too...

Regardless, Green Alleys & Tool Libraries are  great ideas and the pilots have been very encouraging (thanks to all who pitched in). The pilot was lead and planned by the Community Building Committee in Sept. Go to this post on HMEG Blog to see a recap and links to photos from that day. 

YOUR VOTE
Green_alley_2010_using_community_tools

THE IDEA

A successful pilot 'Green Alley' event in 2010 has encouraged Midway neighbors to begin forming a Tool Lending Library. Many higher cost tools such as the Weed Wrench are perfect for sharing since they are needed for short periods. The Weed Wrench removes weed trees without the need for herbicides.http://hamlinemidwaycoalition.org/

THE PLAN

The neighbors of the Hamline Midway see our pilot 'Green Alley' event and our soon-to-be-formed 'Local Food Gardening Hub' are a means to facilitate community building and sustainability within our built environment. Our pilot 'Green Alley' project engaged nearly 40 volunteers and 4 trucks toting 10 loads of brush to composting over a 5 hour period. This event required lots of tools, including the efficient, durable, but expensive, Weed Wrench. Shared community tools such as the Weed Wrench form the basis for more community engagement and provide a nexus for neighbor making. With this grant award, the Midway neighborhood will secure garden/food production tools, set-up a tool lending library and host more community greening events.

DISCUSSION

4Comments

To learn more about weed wrenches checkout http://www.weedwrench.com/weedwrench/how_to_use_weed_wrench.cfm.
by MNMidway Greening
 7 days ago | Reply
this event was a first for me to see . I was there watching my grandchildren and the work they did was fantastic. I was truely impressed. They took a before picture and after. what a wonderful difference and for the good,
by givinglove
 3 days ago | Reply
I am still in awe of the transformation in the alley! I hope to be part of another event!
by Epavlics
 2 days ago | Reply
This idea makes so much sense - and will save neighbors money that they can use for other beautification and place-making projects - native plants, front-yard gardens, rain gardens, etc. Can't wait to see this idea become a reality!
by aksireland
 2 days ago | Reply

Monday, October 10, 2011

'Choose to Reuse' coupon books valid through Nov 30th



Even though the "Choose to Reuse" coupon book is made by Hennepin County, it still has many usable coupons for Midwayites! Eighty retailers to offer great deals on used and rental items, the list of them is below

The 2011 coupon books are available at retail locations &  partners, or You can also download the coupon book here . Coupons are valid October 1 through November 30.


2nd Swing Golf.......................................................................1


A Shoe-A-New.........................................................................1


Appliance Depot....................................................................1


Architectural Antiques.......................................................1


Arc’s Value Village..................................................................1


Assistance League Thrift Shop......................................1


Attic to Basement..................................................................1


Barrel Depot..............................................................................1


Beeline Consignment Boutique...................................2


Bellies to Babies......................................................................2


Better Homes & Garbage..................................................2


Better Than Ever.....................................................................2


Broadway Party & Tent Rental .......................................2


Broadway Rental Equipment.........................................2


B-Squad Vintage & Vinyl ...................................................2


Capital Deals.............................................................................2


Cartridge World MN, Inc. .................................................3


Cartridge World Roseville.................................................3


Clothes Mentor.......................................................................3


Computer Revolution.........................................................3


Corner Store Vintage...........................................................3


CostumeRentals.....................................................................3


Creative Sewing Centers...................................................3


Designer Wardrobe .............................................................3


Down in the Valley................................................................4


Earth Exchange.......................................................................4


East Side Thrift Store ...........................................................4


Eastside Food Co-op...........................................................4


Educated Bride.com.............................................................4


Electric Fetus............................................................................4


Encore Consignment Boutique....................................4


Everyday People.....................................................................4


Furnish Office & Home.......................................................5


Golf USA......................................................................................5


Goodwill......................................................................................5


HalloweenCostumes.com................................................5


Hidden Treasures Thrift Store ........................................5


Hill-Valley Boutique..............................................................5


Hoigaard’s...................................................................................5


Hope Chest for Breast Cancer ......................................5


Hymie’s Vintage Records ..................................................6


Instant Replay Sports..........................................................6


Jackson Medical Equipment .........................................6


Just Between Friends..........................................................6


Lane True Value Hardware and Rental......................6


Magers & Quinn Booksellers...........................................6


Midwest Mountaineering................................................6


Mr. Michael Recycles Bicycles, LLC..............................6


Music Go Round, St Paul...................................................7


My Sister’s Closet...................................................................7


National Camera Exchange.............................................7


Nine – Maternity Clothing Consignment...............7


Norcostco ..................................................................................7


OceanTech.................................................................................7


Odds N Ends.............................................................................7


Once Upon A Child.....................................................7 & 8


Paperback Exchange...........................................................8


Pawn America..........................................................................8


Plato’s Closet (select locations).....................................8


Professional ReBuilding Outlet......................................9


Rags From Riches..................................................................9


Reddy Rents, Inc.


J & F Reddy Rents, Inc. ...............................................9


Hiawatha Reddy Rents, Inc. ...................................9


Rewind.........................................................................................9


Second Debut and Second Debut 2.........................9


Shop Again, Inc. .....................................................................9


St. Vincent De Paul Thrift Stores....................................9


The Cottage House..............................................................9


The Kid’s Rack........................................................................10


The Lost and Found Inc. ................................................10


The PROP Shop....................................................................10


The Salvation Army Family Stores/


Donation Centers...............................................................10


The Wabi Sabi Shop..........................................................10


The Wedding Chapel &


Formal Affair Tuxedos..............................................10


Twin Cities Magic & Costume.....................................10


Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore..............10


Uncle Edgar’s Mystery Bookstore.....................10

Central Corridor bike tour, community greening, community herbarium all converging at Horton Park on Oct 16th


The Hamline Midway community gardeners and residents will be greeting folks from The Central Corridor Roadside Attraction Bicycle Tour at their stop at Horton Park on Sunday Octover 16th at 10:00 am. The visit will be brief, but will give the neighborhood a chance to convey why we are involved in gardening & greening efforts, and what our hopes/dreams are for the future of plants and people along the Central Corridor. The stop would be about 15-30 minutes. The bike tour-goers will stop at Horton  to hear about a vision for the future for Horton Park, for the surrounding neighborhood(s), and/or for our urban environment generally speaking. Thinking big, this could include ideas around reviving the arboretum/more education efforts about plants? More/larger community gardens? A community farm/orchard? More citizen science projects in the neighborhoods?

We will share some the story of Horton Park: how/why it was created, the plants that are there and efforts that are already underway to share information about these plants with people who visit, it's "invisible" or "sleepy" presence. It is also an opportunity to think big and riff on hopes and dreams.

Works Progress will be playing host too and will highlight possible roles for collaborative artists in the process of dreaming a future for plants and people. They are hoping to launch a public art project next year that would engage a broad array of Twin Cities residents in this conversation by enlisting them to help collect and press plants for a Community Herbarium. Sunday attendees will get to trial the first efforts around the community herbarium where stories will accompany the pressed plants. Visitors can take part in an activity pressing some plants from Horton Park.



Sunday, October 9, 2011

Gardening Books for Winter Reading & Inspiration 2011


These Books were recommended by Hamline Midway neighbors and community gardeners who attended the 'All Community Gardeners Potluck' at Horton Park on September 25, 2011.




  • "Prairie Style Gardens" Lynn M. Steiner
  • "Abundantly Wild" Terese Maroon
  • "Just Weeds: History, Myths, and Uses" Pamela Jones
  • "Gardening with Prairie Plants" Sally Wasowski
  • "Growing a Farmer: How I Learned to Live Off the Land" Kurt Timmermeister
  • "Landscaping with Native Plants of Minnesota" Lynn M. Steiner
  • "Healing Gardens" Romy Rawlings
  • "Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer" Novella Carpenter
  • "The Feast Nearby: How I Lost My Job, Buried a Marriage, and Found My Way by Keeping Chickens, Foraging, Preserving, Bartering, and Eating Locally (All on $40 a Week)" Robin Mather




Monday, September 26, 2011

The Green Alley work day pilot yields tremendous outcomes!


The thick of the alley work event
Over 30 volunteers turned out for our alley clean-up on Saturday Sept. 24th! The crew pulled weeds, pulled trees, disposed of garbage, mulched, and planted!  Many thank-you's go out to neighbors, Hamline-Midway Environmental Group (HMEG) members, Hamline Midway Coalition's Community Building Committee (CBC),  and our Master Gardener Diane Fraser.  The alley was transformed when trash-filled, overgrown, and untidy spaces were cleaned up and planted. Plus, some block residents connected for the first time while others strengthened their relationships throughout the process. Better neighbor connections and well-kept spaces can help prevent crime such as illegal dumping, graffiti, and residential burglaries. The vision of the project was to support residents who want to improve their alleys for water quality, safety, food production, and aesthetics. This block on Charles Ave between Griggs and Syndicate got 20 property owners on board with a green alley pilot project, and in exchange, received organizing help and volunteer assistance for a Green Alley Work Day from the CBC and HMEG. One alley resident and work day volunteer expounded on the benefits of the event:

"Many alley [spaces] that looked derelict now look clean and tended-to. I met neighbors I'd never spoken with before, and had great conversations with residents I almost never see. [Plus] I got to use a weed wrench!" Another volunteer said, "Extreme Alley Makeover should be the name of this program - beautiful transformations of neglected space!"

Dozens of block residents turned out only to be greeted by many volunteers from the greater neighborhood who were there just to lend a hand for the day. HMEG and the Southeast Como Improvement Association lent a large supply of tools that included a Weed Wrench.  There was a second, and larger, Weed Wrench provided by Midway neighbor Chad from the U of MN.   Our Master Gardener, Diane, was an inspiration and energetic leader that would not accept an unfinished job.  Further, she lent her truck that was used to rip out stumps of weed trees (this activity went on for about 5 solid hours).  The crew hauled 10 truckloads of weeds and brush to the compost site, and 1 truckload to the Ward 4 Clean-up day (concurrent timing was all part of the plan). Lots of transplant daylilies and hostas came from area yards, and a nice batch of natives plants came from Horton Park community gardeners and friends from the University of MN.  Short native plants will hopefully colonize some of the cleared spaces, and provide food for native pollinators.  

Once the majority of the hard work was done, the group came together for a chili feed potluck.  A perfect accent to the productive day.

See the photos of the work event here.
Some before & after shots are in this album.

Residents along the alley are saying that it looks great and they are very thankful. They recognize many benefits from this type of greening, including community building, crime prevention, and beautification.

Acknowledgment goes to Faith Krogstad for contributing to this article.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Free Swamp White Oak

We had a fun and successful tree distribution on Saturday 9/17/2011 with 63 trees being distributed to residential properties of the Hamline Midway neighborhood.  Most of The specimens were fruit trees (apricot, cherry, plum, serviceberry).  Another step towards Midway local food security. 


However, we have one Swamp white oak tree that needs a good home.  It is in a 5-gallon container and looks very healthy.  Swamp white oak trees need a large space to grow (H:  50-60’, W: 40-50’) so if you know of a neighbor who has a perfect spot, or another place (park, school ground, business or school) in the Hamline Midway for this tree, please let us know.  First come, first served!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"Care of Young Fruit Trees" Workshops on Sept. 17th - Free

The Hamline Midway Environmental Group (HMEG) and Egg|Plant Urban Farm Supply are offering two "Care of Young Fruit Trees" workshops taught by Rebecca Koetter. The classes will be held on on Saturday Sept 17th at Egg|Plant during HMEG's tree distribution day. The 45 minute sessions will be held at noon and 3:00pm. Topics to be covered will include fruit tree planting, mulching, watering, pruning (very basic), reasons for fruit sanitation, rodent protection, and product supply needs. These classes support HMEG's goal of offsetting tree canopy losses in the Midway due to emerald ash borer and help ensure good production from fruit trees that are included in this distribution.


These workshops are specifically designed for the
HMEG Tree Team fall 2011 distribution, but they are free and open to anyone. No reservations required.

For those planning on planting- be sure to call Gopher One before you dig: (651) 454-0002

About the instructor: Rebecca Koetter is a Research Fellow at the UMN and a full time manager of several edible trees and shrubs at the TRE Nursery and on the St Paul U of MN campus. She works on urban forestry outreach education programs with the Department of Forest Resources in St. Paul.

What: "Care of Young Fruit Trees" classes
Where: Eggplant Urban Farm Supply, 1771 Selby Ave., St. Paul.
When: 12:00 pm (noon) & 3:00 pm
Who: Taught by Rebecca Koetter, sponsored by Hamline Midway Environmental Group (HMEG) and Egg|Plant Urban Farm Supply


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Midway All-Community Garden Potluck & Books on Sept 25th



You are invited to the “Hamline Midway Community Garden Potluck” at Horton Park on Sunday, September 25 at 12:00 p.m. This invitation extends to ALL fellow HM community gardeners, supporters, interested friends, family members, and neighbors, to make this a CELEBRATION of neighborhood community gardening!

In addition to enjoying lunch in the park, we will also have the opportunity to view a short Public Art St. Paul video that highlights Hamline Midway community gardens! The footage for this video was taken during a gathering this summer at Groundswell where a number of community gardeners from the Midway described gardening together, the gardens themselves and the important placemaking roles of these spaces. The staff from Public Art St. Paul synthesized our comments and overlaid them with video they shot in the gardens.

Further, we are inviting attendees to the potluck to bring a new or favorite gardening book! Soon we will be under a blanket of snow, and garden inspiration will be a welcomed antidote. After perusing each other's titles at the potluck, we will have new book wish-lists ready for the upcoming dark and cold nights.

On the 25th, bring along any kind of food that you would like to share, your own place setting to eat from, and of course a book! Horton Park is located between Minnehaha and Englewood Avenues, and between Hamline and Albert Avenues. Look for us at the picnic tables in the middle of the park. We look forward to seeing you and celebrating the fruits of our labor.

*Note - the Hamline Thomas Community Garden potluck for September 18 has morphed into this event and will NOT be held on the 18th - See you at Horton on the 25th!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Can you plant trees in the Fall?


Fall planting of containerized trees can be quite successful. Roots will continue growing until the soil freezes though watering up until ground freeze is an important step. A nice layer of mulch will ensure the freeze happens evenly. There are a couple of MN extension publications that describe tree planting through November even. Here is one: http://www.mntrees.org/planting.cfm.

Spring and fall are the best time to plant trees in Minnesota, because temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold and soil moisture is plentiful. Trees planted during the summer need more regular watering.
Spring Planting Season: April to early June
Fall Planting Season: late September through November


As far as we researched, fruit trees don't really have any other particular planting demands in this regard than other trees and shrubs (we did ask). Regardless of the time of planting, fruit trees owners should consider installing rodent protection because winter bunny chewing can destroy a tree.

Some urban foresters are starting to consider fall being the better time to plant. A spring planted tree may only have a couple of months to toughen up for the usual summer hot and dry (this year being exceptional).

Of course, every season can vary, as will the performance of a particular plant, which will also depend on how its cared for. Bareroot trees are a different story entirely-they need spring planting.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summer Events at the Hamline Thomas Community Garden



















  • Plant & Produce Swap! Bring plants or produce that you would like to exchange with others. 1:00 – 3:00 p.m., Sunday July 17
  • Tomato Tasting! Bring your favorite tomatoes from your garden. 1:00 – 3:00 p.m., Sunday August 21
  • Locally Grown Potluck! Bring a dish to share with locally grown ingredients. 1:00 – 3:00 p.m., Sunday September 18

Join your neighbors for some fun! We will be providing garden maintenance during these events. Please bring gardening gloves if you would like to help. Contact Emmy Vadnais with questions atekvadnais@hotmail.com.

Friday, June 17, 2011

You’re Invited to Get a fruit or shade TREE From the HMEG Tree Team!

As a community, we are facing losing all of our ash trees due to the Emerald ash borer (EAB). In response, the Hamline Midway Environmental Group (HMEG) Tree Team has secured sponsorship to provide trees to Hamline Midway residents at a great discount. Trees are offered first-come, first-served based on availability, limited to one tree per property. Trees cannot be planted on the boulevard. See your choices below:

Fruit Tree Species

Evans Bali Cherry, Prunus cerasus 'Evans Bali'. Zone 3-8. Ht. 15’.
Full sun. Deep, dark red fruit 1" in diameter and excellent for baking
and fresh eating. The fruit is much sweeter than other sour cherries.
Extremely hardy buds. 5-gallon container.

Northstar Cherry, Prunus ‘North Star’. Zone 4-8. Genetic dwarf, Ht.
8-10’. Self-fertile. Full sun. Red fruit with small stone, very productive
sour cherry. 5-gallon container.

Mount Royal Plum, Prunus ‘Mount Royal’. Zone 4-8. Ht. 8-12’. Full
sun. Blue, European plum. Excellent for dessert, jam and preserves.
Tasty right off the tree. 5-gallon container.

Pioneer Chinese Apricot, Prunus armeniaca 'Pioneer'. Zone 4. Ht.10-
15’. Golden-yellow fruits are sweet, firm and juicy. Trees bear young
and heavily. Its pit is edible and tastes of almond. Self-fruitful,
however yields improve with cross-pollination. 5-gallon container.

Native Shade Tree Species

Hackberry, Celtis occidentalis. Zone 3-5. H:50-75' W: 50-75'. Full sun
to part shade. Tolerates dry polluted conditions. Persistent small,
purplish berries. Yellow fall color. Very high wildlife value. 5-gallon
container.

River Birch, Betula nigra. Zone 4-8. H:50-60’ W:35-40’. Clump. Full
sun/light shade. Cinnamon-brown exfoliating bark. Yellow fall color.
High wildlife value. 5-gallon container.

Swamp White Oak, Quercus bicolor. Zone 4-5. H: 50-60' W: 40-50'.
Tolerates most soils. Yellow orange fall color. Persistent leaves in
winter. Fibrous root system. Resistant to salt and soil compaction. Very
high wildlife value. 5-gallon container.

Native Ornamental Tree Species

Pagoda Dogwood, Cornus alternifolia. Zone 4-7. H:15-20’ W:20-25’.
Full sun to shade. Graceful small tree has pale yellow flowers in May
with blue-black fruit. Maroon-red fall color. Branches grow in irregular
tiers, forming a somewhat horizontal, layered look to the plant. High
wildlife value. 5-gallon container.

Serviceberry, Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’ (native
hybrid). Zone 3-8. H:20-25’ W:10-15’. This tree has white blossoms in
spring with sweet purplish-black fruit. Brilliant red-orange fall color.
Heavily branched, the tree has an interesting spreading branch pattern
and attractive light gray bark. High wildlife value. 5-gallon container.


All trees are only $5!

Reserve your tree by September 1st! Contact Hamline Midway Coalition at 651-646-1986 or michaeljon@hamlinemidway.org. Prepayment required. Send your name and choice of tree
along with a $5 check or cash to:

HMC at 1564 Lafond Ave., St.
Paul, MN 55104.

Recipients MUST pick up their tree on September 17 at:

Eggplant Urban Farm Supply,
1771 Selby Ave., St. Paul.
between 10:00am – 6:00pm.

Be sure to call Gopher One before you dig: (651) 454-0002!



Do you need a printable flyer with this info? See this pdf.

Major funding from the Community Organization Partnership Program and McKnight Foundation via the Hamline Midway Coalition. HMEG will gladly take donations towards future greening efforts. Cash or checks can be made to HMC. Thanks!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bike/Walk Week, June 11 Bike Rodeo and More Bike Fabulousness!

With warmer weather comes even more opportunities to bike, for recreation, for commuting, and for errands, and this June is full of chances to learn more about biking safely and even earn perks and bonuses for making bicycling part of your everyday routine.

June 4-12 is Twin Cities Bike/Walk Week, and though it's a little late to get a Bike/Walk team organized this year, you can still register yourself at http://bikewalkweek.org/joinup. And of course you can spread the word to friends, neighbors, and co-workers. You can look here for special Bike/Walk events--there might be one happening near you!

Speaking of local events, on June 11, from 10 am-1 pm, HMEG is partnering with Hancock Recreation Center to present a bike safety rodeo for kids. For $5 per child or $12 per family, participants can get a helmet fitting, a bike safety check and minor repairs performed by local mechanics, and the opportunity to try out a safety obstacle course designed by the St. Paul Police. All participants can get a free helmet while supplies last, and at 12:30 there will be door prizes, with lots of great prizes donated by local businesses. On Facebook, you can visit here for more information, or call Hancock Recreation Center at 651-298-4393 for further information or to register ahead of time. Registering at the door is fine, too. We welcome volunteer help, as well! Hancock is located at 1610 Hubbard Avenue, St. Paul 55104.

The local group Bike Minnesota 350 is inviting people to join the Summer of 350/Winter of 350 Challenge, which is to bike 350 miles or kilometers over the summer, fall and winter of 2010, and to track your miles. 350.org is an international organization working to spread the word that we need to get our worldwide carbon dioxide emissions down to 350 parts per million in the atmosphere to preserve a livable planet. Currently, we're at about 390 ppm and rising. You can learn more about the Minnesota bike challenge here, and you can sign up as a member of the 350 Blue Team here.

Mississippi Market has proven its awesomeness once again by offering Bicycle Benefits to customers. For $5, you can purchase a Bicycle Benefits sticker for your bike helmet, and each time you bike to shop at the co-op, show your helmet and get a 5% discount on your groceries (excluding other discounts and not valid on milk, butter, and eggs, which are already sold as cheaply as the co-op can afford). If you're not biking to get groceries, this should provide a nice incentive. If you already are biking to get groceries, score! Get those insulated bags ready and get pedaling!

Finally, this summer those cute green Nice Ride bikes that you've seen in Minneapolis will start being available in St. Paul, including at Hamline University here in the Midway.

It's already been a beautiful summer for bicycling; with all this community support for biking, there's just no reason not to enjoy the community-building, environment-protecting, healthy joys of biking together!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Native Bees: Why should you care and what can you do to help?

Submitted to the HMEG Blog by Elaine Evans

While most people are familiar with honey bees and their amazing behaviors and hive products, many do not realize that honey bees are not native to North America. Honey bees were brought to North America by European settlers. There are, however, around 20,000 other species of bees worldwide, most of these living a solitary life nesting in the ground or in plant stems. Around 4,000 of these bees are native to North America with around 300 in Minnesota. These bees range widely in size and color, from big fuzzy bumble bees, to tiny metallic green sweat bees. They all rely on nectar and pollen from flowers for food.

Pollinators are responsible for 35% of crop production worldwide. The value of U.S. crops that rely on pollination is valued at over $18.9 billion. Of 100 crop species that provide 90% of food supplies, 71 are bee-pollinated, mainly by wild bees. A simple way to think about this is that pollinators are responsible for roughly one in three mouthfuls of food and drink we consume.

With the advent of large-scale agriculture, human society became reliant on one bee species, the European honey bee, for pollination of our crops. Increasing farm size, with decreasing wild lands surrounding these farms, has reduced habitat for native bees. For these large-scale farms, native bee populations are typically not strong enough to provide the needed pollination services. Honey bees are brought in by commercial beekeepers to pollinate many crops.

Considering the importance of crop pollination to the integrity of our food supply, it is astounding that we rely on one bee species. Sadly, it has taken severe losses of honey bee colonies over the last several decades to increase awareness of this problem. Honey bee declines are due a variety of diseases, pests, parasites, and pesticides combined with the stress created from the pressure to provide pollination services to gigantic monoculture crops. Most commercial beekeepers are migratory, moving bees from one crop to the next across the United States. Bees from all over the county are brought together to pollinate specifics crops, such as almonds in California, oranges in Florida and cranberries in Wisconsin. The bees mingle on the flowers and pests and diseases are shared. Poor nutrition, pesticide exposure and diseases, pests and parasites all combine to make it very difficult for honey bee colonies to survive.

While all bees are exposed to the same threats such as lack of flowering resources and nesting habitats, pesticide exposure, climate change, diseases, pests and pathogens, bee species vary in their responses to these threats. Some species are clearly in decline while others are stable. Honey bees are a unique case as there are not many wild colonies in North America. Basically, all honey bee colonies are managed by people. As such, their populations are dependent on beekeepers. Beekeeping has become much harder due to declining honey prices and the costs of coping with diseases and parasites afflicting honey bees. Since the 1950s, there has been a 50% decline in the number of managed honey bee colonies. Rather than saying that honey bees are in decline, I would say that bee keeping is in decline.

Native bee declines are most likely due to habitat loss and pesticide exposure. Other possible causes include climate change and novel diseases or pests transferred from honey bees or other commercial bee operations. Unfortunately, we don’t know enough about most of our native bees to even really be sure that they are in decline.

If every bee on the planet died tomorrow, we would not starve. Wind pollinated crops, such as rice and wheat and corn, are significant portions of our diets. Many other plants can reproduce without the help of pollinators. However, the quality of our diets would severely decline. Nutritionally, we would be hard set to find good sources of many vitamins that are essential for our health, such as vitamin C. Most fruits and nuts would not be available.

Pollination is often called a keystone ecological process. This means that many other organisms are dependent on the pollination services bees provide. Many plants cannot reproduce at all without pollination. Herbivores depend on those plants for survival, and in turn, carnivores depend on those herbivores. Besides the grave impact on the quality of our food supply with pollinator decline, there is whole chain of organisms that will suffer if bee populations decline significantly.

There are some important things that you can do to help native bees. Plant a garden with lots of native wildflowers. Many hybrid varieties of flowers don’t produce nectar and pollen, so natives are best. Having large patches of the same kind of flowers helps attract more bees. Plan to have something always blooming between April and September. Ground nesting bees use bare soil for nesting, so leaving bare patches of soil is helpful. Stem nesting bees will use pithy stems so don’t cut all your stems down in the fall. Let them stay there as long as you can stand to see them, but at least until the following May. If there are clovers and dandelions in your lawn, let them bloom to provide nectar and pollen. My favorite bee flowers are bee balm, anise hyssop, new england aster, cup plant, leadplant, lupines, wild indigo and purple prairie clover.

Keeping honey bees is a great way to learn about bee biology, provide pollination for your garden and produce your own honey. There is a great class taught at the University of Minnesota every March and October. More info here: http://www.extension.umn.edu/honeybees/components/publiccourses.htm

There are simple nest boxes that can be made to encourage native bee nesting too. More info here: http://www.xerces.org/pollinator-conservation/