By Jannie Vaught
Yesterday afternoon I was enjoying a stroll through our back garden and now leafless fruit trees and I noticed that there were wild or feral bees going after some outdated fruit jam I had placed in a dish for the 4 chickens who live in my back garden area.
They were eating like they were starving!
Maybe they were as this early frost and the cold snap has frozen out flowers all except a few winter narcissist Lillies. Thinking I had been doing enough for my garden pollinators I started doing more research on “How can I help the pollinators in the winter?” Most of what I found was about beekeeping in box hives. So I went to searching for wild or feral bees. Found some important points for helping keep them healthy through the winter.
A little information.
The Natural Beekeeping Trust and How to create a wild bee sanctuary by the David Suzuki Foundation. All wild pollinators are suffering from habitat loss and pesticide sprays. There are more than honey and bumblebees! There are over 20.000 known species. In the USA there are over 4.000 species of native bees. That is diversity! If you think only honey bees are in trouble think further, there are 3.999 species that are also struggling. Without them, there is no pollination of plants, and less food is grown from the wheat to the nuts. In my little corner of the world, what can I do to build a thriving habitat for them? Each of us can create a habitat to support the local bee population. Bees are more likely to thrive in your backyard, community, or patio garden that in one acre of a single crop. The urban setting means short flight paths and a Diversity of flowers vegetables, trees, and grasses. So here are some thing you can do to help.
1. Fill your yard with native flowers. We have Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, founded in 1982 by Lady Bird Johnson and actress Helen Hayes to protect and preserve North America’s native plants. Plan now for spring planting.
2. Plant Native.
3. Go organic, bees are insects so using insecticides on your l; lawn and garden will kill them. Avoid plant-killing herbicides and treated plants that the bees and pollinators will visit and be poisoned, read the label with the plant, and avoid those with nicotinoid treatment. Use poison-free handpicking pests like leaf-footed bugs and aphids. And there are easy to use mesh barriers and wire hoops to keep the eating bugs away. Get a good bug book to keep at hand. I use 4 chicken to keep the grasshoppers away, and I use a wide mesh barrier to keep them from scratching up the rows. They learn where they can go. but when it is bug season they are the best bad bug eaters. Keeping the insects in balance is what you are after. Not a complete elimination. Some Naughty bugs are pollinators also.
4. Add water. Maybe the bees weren’t after the sugar but the water? Probably both. Bees and beneficial insects like ladybugs, butterflies and predator wasps need fresh water. Make a bee water dish. use a shallow dish filled with smooth rocks or something for them to land on and drink as they will drown in deep water like a birdbath. they will ring the edges of the tray. for butterflies add some clean soil to the bottom add water and stones and they will come to “Puddle” as they need the soil for minerals and they love grated apples.
5. Open nesting places. Honey bees and Bumblebees live in social colonies, while wild bee species are solitary. About 2/3 of solitary bees use tunnels in the ground to lay eggs. About 1/3 use hollowed out plants and stems or tunnels in dead branches and trees like the Blue Bee which live here. Messy yards help bees. and a bare spot in the garden can give them ample places to nest. Leave the leave where they fall and leave standing stems and twigs for more feed and nesting places. Fallen limbs or a few small logs left in an area always give them places to hide and winter over. These are simple things to do to make a habitat for our most needy pollinators.
What we do today will be evident when we see the spring flowers bloom and our bees have multiplied.
Growing Green With Jannie