'Bee' a good gardener for pollinators!
After a cold, icy winter, many folks want nothing more than to get out and start tidying the garden and planting tons of bright flowers the minute the mercury starts to rise. However, starting your spring garden tidying when it's only 10°C might be doing more harm then good when it comes to all the helpful pollinators living in and around your yard! Here's why:
Warming up doesn't mean warm!
When we've been used to a chilly -4°, that first weekend with a sunny 10° day can feel extra balmy to us humans. It might seem like the perfect temperature to do some garden tidying, but all the overwintering pollinators in your garden definitely don't agree! All the bees and butterflies hibernating in your garden need daytime temperatures that are consistently around 12-13° C in order to survive. Premature tidying can result in pollinators waking up but not surviving the too-cool nights, or not waking up and getting thrown away into your yard waste bin!
No flowers = no food
Pollinating insects primarily visit flowers to eat nectar as well as collect pollen. Having a constant bloom of flowers throughout the whole season is important to provide a consistent source of food, so disturbing pollinators in your yard before there are food sources around can result in them leaving your garden because they can't find anything to eat! Having early season flowers like crocuses, snowdrops, and dandelions (yes, dandelions...) will help provide essential food for all the early-emerging bees and butterflies. Mid-season flowers such as Brown-eyed Susan (right) or Yarrow will help a wide range of pollinators at different life cycle stages, while late-season flowers like Rabbitbrush or Parsnip-flowered Buckwheat provide food for any pollinators preparing for winter. Remember that many pollinators prefer to visit native plants, so be sure to incorporate indigenous plants species into your garden!
Dead stems & sticks = live bees!
Some of the most helpful and efficient pollinators in your garden are solitary bees, like mason bees or leafcutter bees. These are small bees that live alone instead of in social groups like honeybees or bumblebees. Solitary bees often lay eggs in dead hollow flower stems, cracks in dead wood, or other small cavities in your garden. They often lay their eggs in the spring and summer, so leaving dried deadheaded stalks within your flower clumps or using decorative wood features like driftwood is a great way to provide nesting areas for next years pollinators! If you have space, you can also create small brush piles to provide nesting habitat as well.
Want some more information on creating good pollinator habitat? Check out our Attracting Pollinators webpage at https://www.osstewardship.ca/pollinators
For an entire library's worth of information on pollinators, native plants, and pollinator gardening, head over to the Xerces Society's pollinator resource pages! https://xerces.org/pollinator-resource-center