By NACD Communications Manager Sara Kangas
As spring concludes and summer finally arrives, you’re likely seeing more critters around your garden hard at work. Today marks the beginning of National Pollinator Week, an annual event to raise awareness of the animals and invertebrates that make our ecosystems function. In addition to graphics on NACD’s social media channels this week, here are five ways you can make a difference for pollinators today:
Create a pollinator watering station. With sweltering temperatures and more direct sunlight in summer months, sources of water can be hard to find. Add a bowl, dish or even a pie plate to your yard filled with rocks, marbles or pebbles and a shallow layer of fresh water. Spread the substrate evenly to provide pollinators with somewhere to land without drowning. Keep the water station out of direct sunlight and monitor the water levels to make sure there’s an adequate supply (and that you don’t inadvertently create a mosquito breeding ground!)
Plant a mixture of native flowering plants. If you haven’t planted your garden yet, it’s not too late! Pick native blooms – a regional pollinator planting guide is available here, just enter your zip code – and avoid the use of pesticides, which can affect the health of the whole colony. Plant a mix of species; biodiversity helps attract a wide range of pollinators and keeps your garden healthy!
Provide natural habitat for native bees. Some of the most easily identifiable pollinators – honeybees – are not native to the U.S. That means they’re less effective pollinators than our native, docile North American bumblebees, a majority of which are ground-dwelling. By leaving leaf litter and organic material in your garden bed, you’ll provide substrate they can utilize to make nests or use for shelter. Avoid using mulch, or leave some areas of soil uncovered so bees can access their tunnels.
Watch this webinar. As part of NACD’s Soil Health Champions Network webinar series, the Xerces Society discussed how improved soil health increases the prevalence of beneficial insects like ground-dwelling bees that pollinate our crops.
Build a bee hotel. Bee hotels or bee boxes provide a hive for solitary bees that do not live in swarms like honeybees do. You can use scrap lumber (ideally older, weathered scraps that have less chemicals) to build a frame in any size or shape suitable for your yard. The frame must be at least six inches in depth and enclosed at the back. Slope the roof to avoid rainfall pooling and add bamboo, reeds, tubes or blocks of wood with drilled holes to create the hotel ‘rooms’. Stack the rooms, and mount the hotel at chest height facing south. Consult this article for more specifics.
Pollinators are integral to our ecosystems and our economy, regardless of landscape. By implementing any of these practices, you’ll help more than just bees – other wildlife, from butterflies to birds, also benefit. Reach out to your local conservation district for assistance, guidance or other suggestions.