Honeybees as Plant Bodyguards

By Charlie Nardozzi

Most gardeners know the advantages of honeybees visiting the garden. Bees play a critical role in the pollination of many fruits and vegetables. New research from Germany shows that honeybees can also protect plants from caterpillar damage as well.

Leaf-eating caterpillars have fine hairs on their bodies to help them identify when predatory wasps are buzzing nearby. Unfortunately for the caterpillar, these hairs don't distinguish between an insect-eating wasp and a harmless bee. If it detects some activity the caterpillar often stops feeding and may even drop to the ground to protect itself. German researchers measured the amount of damage on pepper plants grown in a tent with honeybees and caterpillars against those with just caterpillars. There was a 60 to 70 percent decrease in damage in the tent with honeybees.

When designing your home garden include a variety of honeybee-attracting flowers that will bloom throughout the growing season to help protect your vegetables and fruits. Some bee-attracting flowers to grow include agastache, California poppy, oregano, gaillardia, and cosmos.

For more information on this research, go to: Science News .

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