Preserving urban honey bee populations

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) - A flyer circulating through the Elmwood Park Neighborhood is encouraging people to call the city and ask for crews spray Elmwood Park for dandelions. 

That has some urban beekeepers concerned about the removal of pollinating plants which honey bees need to survive. 

Omaha Parks and Recreation sprays the city's more than 250 parks once a year for weeds; to prevent them from taking over the turf.

The Mayor's Hotline has received at least 10 calls over two days with people voicing their thoughts about whether the parks should be sprayed to prevent weeds. 

A flyer circulating around the Elmwood Park Neighborhood is prompting the calls. 

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Office entomologist Jonathan Larson says that pollinating plants like dandelions - act as a food source for honey bees during the early spring. 

"We know dandelions are food resources for 50 different pollinating insects that are part of our natural habitats," said Larson. "They're not the greatest food resource. It's like a McDonalds meal when you're driving around. It's not the most nutritious thing for them to eat but it is something that's available for them easily to find."

The UNL Extension office has a pollinator habitat program to encourage people in urban areas to plant gardens geared toward insect pollinators. 

Pollinator gardens have at least three different types of pollinators, to bloom in as many seasons as possible. 

Examples include: 

  • Spring: Crocus, hyacinth, borage, calendula, and wild lilac 
  • Summer: Bee balm, cosmos, echinacea, snapdragons foxglove and hosta
  • Fall: Zinnias, sedum, asters, witch hazel and goldenrod are late bloomers that will tempt foragers.

The Omaha Bee Club is working to build bee populations in Omaha. 

The club began several years ago with five members, now it's grown to more 200 members. 

"Once beekeeping is in the blood, it's there forever," said Vice President of the Omaha Bee Club, Rob Loghry. 

"It keeps you calm when you're working the hives because you have to move slow and deliberate," said Loghry. "It also pollinated all the gardens in the area."

"We all love flowers. We love them blooming and choosing plants from this list they bloom all summer long," said Scott Evans, Horticulture Program Developer.

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