Recent research suggests that pollinators do better in urban environments, yet these mowed, mulched, and managed landscapes frequently lack a sufficient amount of nesting habitat. Here are a few simple ways to provide them with their ‘Dream Home’.
Provide Habitat With Plants: 30% of our native bees lay their eggs in cavities – holes in dead wood, hollow stems, or even cracks in concrete or stone (only honey bees form hives.) Grow raspberries…and other plants with pithy or hollow stems such as Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium spp.), elderberry (Sambucus spp.), hydrangea, and others. Cavity nesting bees will make nests in the dried stems and twigs from previous years’ growth, so don’t aggressively cut back or clean up these plants and consider leaving dead branches alone. Waiting to cut back your grasses in spring instead of fall to provide precious habitat and provides you with winter interest.
Use Leaf Mulch: People mulch for many reasons; to suppress weeds, prevent erosion, and to make beds look tidy. If you must mulch, consider using compost or shredded leaves instead of chipped wood products, even if it is just in one area in your yard. These alternatives will have the same weed suppression, water retention, and other properties – yet be light enough to allow ground nesting bees to pass through. 70% of our native bee population nest in the ground and the vast majority of them are gentle & harmless. Most people have leaves readily available to them in their yards in fall, so the mulch is FREE.
Save A Dead Tree or ‘Plant’ A Log: Maybe it’s a reminder of our own mortality, but when most of us see a dead tree or even a dead branch, our first impulse is often “that’s gotta go!” In many cases this material poses no real danger, and, if it can be tolerated, this dead woody material provides an abundance of habitat for all sorts of wildlife. Beetles and carpenter ants burrow into dead wood, birds go after these insect treats, and this activity creates perfect chambers for cavity nesting bees to lay their eggs. While you may not want to gaze lovingly upon a dead tree from your kitchen window over morning coffee, you can add this valuable habitat to your landscape by leaving piles of twigs, branches, or logs in your garden.
Build A Better Brush Pile: The very mention of a brush pile conjures up such nightmarish images (fire! snakes!) that the idea of adding one to your carefully cultivated landscape may seem anathema. Yet adding a brush pile is one of the most effective ways you can provide habitat for a diversity of wildlife while also benefiting the environment and saving money in the long-term. Worried about it being an eyesore? Get creative and build a “brush fence”, hide the pile behind ornamental grasses, or simply install a Pollinator Friendly Habitat sign to advertise your good intentions to your neighbors. Or build a ‘bee hotel’.
With a little effort and consideration, you could have a profound impact on our native pollinators for little to no cost. Just remember every bit helps our struggling native bee population and we are on tap to help you help our native critters.