Our National Parks are truly national treasures. They preserve the beauty of the land, provide a home for wildlife, and give us an insight into the appearance of the terrain and the challenges faced by those who first settled the areas. As virtually undisturbed natural areas, the national parks also serve as points where we can observe the effect of our modern agriculture and urbanization on our pollinators. Large natural areas, such as Yellowstone National Park, likely contain only native pollinators and feral honey bees; because there are no managed hives in the area. Since honey bees from managed hives would not fly deep into the miles-wide parks, any honey bees found in the park’s interior can be assumed to be feral. In Yellowstone National Park, I found an abundance of wildflowers in bloom. Weather conditions were quite acceptable for bee flight; however, I found no honey bees foraging, only native pollinators. I did observe a number of different species of insect pollinators including leaf-cutting bees, blue orchard bees, and wasps. I would have to conclude that there were few feral honey bee colonies in the area. In the evening, bats were plentiful, and some species of bats are effective pollinators of flowering plants. The national parks give us a feel of the way the land was before Europeans arrived with the honey bee. Wild game existed on grasses and flowering plants that were pollinated largely by native insect pollinators. They rely upon them today.
I took today’s photo of Yellowstone wildflowers as I was photographing a mule deer eating fireweed. The variety of flowering plants available to feed the deer resulted from the availability of native pollinators to propagate the wildflowers. This area was cleared of all trees by massive forest fires in 1988, and it hosted an abundance of wildflowers thriving in the exposed sunlight. Fireweed, the pink-colored wildflower, is a source of honey and is one of the first plants to sprout after such fires.--Richard