All winter I looked forward to one particular sign of spring — the emergence of my mason bees (a solitary bee, not a honeybee). Last year, I put up a mason bee house and bought 20 bees for 20 dollars. I longed to call myself a beekeeper, but figured I'd have to wait until my bee babies survived the winter to make that official. And they did!
My yard is now no longer just a place to BBQ and my dog's favorite spot to lift his leg. With nine more sleeps until Earth Day 2011, why not create habitat for wildlife where you live?
Help the bees
Bees sometimes prefer backyards and patio gardens to large plots of cropland. Creating a bee-friendly yard is simple. (Warning: encouraging bees might triple the yield of fruits and veggies in your garden!)
• Choose native plants to attract native bees
• Pick flower colors bees like: blue, purple, violet, white, and yellow
• Make a bee bath
• Make a bee house (never used cedar, it's insecticidal)
There are three kinds of bumblebees: those that nest underground, those that nest at ground level and those nest above-ground.
Bees that nest in the ground benefit your garden by:
• Improving soil quality
• Increasing water movement around plant roots
• Mixing up soil nutrients
Ground-dwelling bumblebees will nest in a compost pile because they love the heat, or use abandoned mouse holes. Above-ground bumblebees feel right at home in bird houses, especially those that weren't cleaned out the year before.
Be a good neighbour to bumblebees and don't disturb them. They have work to do!
Create a butterfly garden
Whether it's a tiny balcony or a few acres, you can transform your green space into a butterfly garden and help offset habitat destroyed by development, roadside mowing, or wetland drainage.
You'll need two types of plants; nectar plants for food and host plants where butterflies lay their eggs. (Note: butterflies and hummingbirds share many nectar flowers, so efforts to attract one may have the bonus of attracting the other.)
• Tiger Swallowtails choose nectar plants like lilacs or bee balm. Nearby willow, alder, or apple trees can host the larva.
• Painted Ladies choose nectar plants like aster, cosmos or zinnia. Host plants include thistle, mallow or hollyhock.
• Monarchs choose nectar plants like milkweed, lilac, goldenrod and cosmos. Host plants include plants in the milkweed family and cosmos.
How will you create habitat for the bees and butterflies where you live?
Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green