17 March 2012

Have some messy places in your garden and yard for bees and wildlife to eat and live

Dick & Bridget Strawbridge
On the blog Permanent Culture Now, Brigit Strawbridge reminds us to leave some messy places for wildlife and maybe even make some for them.

I've written about this before and you will recognize some of Strawbridge's key points - (full article and more links at the Permanent Culture Now above & Bridget's talk at the link under her photo).

Mason Bee Sabka.org
* Although some of our main crops are wind pollinated, over three-quarters of our staple crop plants and most of our fruit and vegetables rely on animal pollination. Animal pollinators include birds, butterflies, moths and hoverflies, as well as lesser-known creatures such as wasps, flies, bats, beetles and even some species of ants. Bees, however, are without doubt our most important pollinators; being responsible for one third of all the food we eat and at least half of all the wild flowers on the planet. 

* The extent of the bee’s role within any permaculture system or plot cannot be understated – it is absolutely vital that we incorporate provisions for their continued survival within our designs. This is not difficult as bees’ requirements are very basic. They need: habitat suitable for nesting, mating and hibernating – and nectar & pollen rich flowers to forage upon.

Digger Bee - UC Agriculture - lots more info here
*Most species of bumblebee like to nest beneath the ground. Nothing suits these bees better than a disused nest or tunnel made by mice or other rodents but unfortunately these are not as plentiful as they used to be. This is because our small mammal population is in decline. Small mammal decline has, in turn, been caused by the decline in hedgerows. So, by planting a native hedgerow, not only will you be providing yourself and other creatures with a plentiful supply of edible and medicinal plants, but you will also be creating ideal habitat for small mammals and, ultimately, for bumblebee nests. Hedgerows (and woodland edges) also serve another purpose for bumblebees when, in the mating season, males of different species can be found patrolling up and down the length of the hedgerows or tree lines waiting for newly hatched queen bees to mate with.

*One single Red Mason solitary bee (Osmia rufa) is capable of doing the same amount of work as 120 honeybees…. so it’s well worth considering ways to attract them to your plot.
Habitat piles, rotten wood, compost heaps, south facing muddy banks and long grass are all great for solitary bees, but you can also create purpose built nests or ‘bee hotels’ for them. To do this, you can use bundles of hollow plant stems such as bamboo or cow parsley…or drill holes, 2 – 8mm in diameter into logs or fence posts. Place these in south facing positions and the bees will love them.

* there are a few basic things to bear in mind to make your plot bee friendly:
  1. Make sure you have pollen and nectar rich pants flowering in succession throughout the year. It’s no use providing acres of sunflowers if there is nothing for bees to forage upon for the rest of the year.
  2. Plant flowers in clumps rather than as single stems.
  3. Avoid double or multi-headed cultivars.
  4. Don’t use pesticides
  5. Plant in sunny positions wherever possible
  6. Bees especially like flowers in the blue/purple/lilac colour spectrum as well as pink, yellow, and white. Apart from the odd flower such as the Field Poppy bees are not interested in red flowers.
  7. If you want to provide bees with caviar and champagne, plant Viper’s bugloss and Borage!

2 comments:

Mrs. C said...

I planted a pink honeysuckle about two weeks ago, at first I thought it would just attract birds like hummingbirds but I'm excited to learn it may also attract honey bees. I like this post about having a messy place, I may do this for that corner where I put my honeysuckle!

Molly said...

Leaving a messy place is hard to remember sometimes.
Each time I clean out a messy bed I disturb wildlife of some kind though.
Especially late summer and fall, the butterflies are bummed out when I clean away their shelter from the sun and protection from predators.
I should just clean my windows instead. ;-)