Friday, March 5, 2010

What is good for the birds is good for the bees

Let us say that you want to help pollinators by creating a habitat in your garden that is beneficial to them. If you are a nature lover and have been trying to attract birds to your yard, chances are that you have already been helping the pollinators without knowing it.

At the top of the list of what you can do for both birds and pollinators are two things: grow native plants and avoid pesticides. By native plants we mean not just native to North America, but to the particular region where you are located.

Plants and animals of each region have been adapting to each other for eons. Local plants usually provide the best food and shelter for the local wildlife. More specifically, wild flowers provide the right cues and produce the right food for pollinators, e. g.: scent, kind and amount of nectar and pollen, right colors and shape. Many times, cultivars and non-native plants lack one or the other of these features and are worthless to native pollinators. Of course, this is not always the case; many species of bees visit the flowers of introduced fruit trees and butterflies find the non native butterfly bushes to their liking; but these are the exceptions, rather than the rule.

Dead trees or snags or dead branches provide housing for pollinators, they are also good for birds. A brush pile, some leaf litter, keeping dried up tall grasses all winter, also turning some of your lawn into a meadow, a variety of flowering and berry producing shrubs and trees are, once again, good for both kinds of creatures providing food or shelter or both.

I would add to this list small lawn "weeds", all those little broad leaved plants that some people consider unsightly, are helpful to pollinators and are actually beneficial to your lawn, for instance, enriching the soil in the case of clover. So, if we could change our vision of what is esthetically pleasing we would be benefiting our precious wildlife.

Finally, a few bare spots in the lawn are not a bad thing; some pollinators nest in the ground, building pencil thick tunnels and storing pollen and nectar at the bottom of such tunnels. Mulch, gravel or a very thick lawn may prevent them from finding the right spot. Is it too much to ask to allow a few bare spots in the farther areas of a yard where they are out of sight?

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© Beatriz Moisset. 2012