January....a time when most people are wondering if their snow boot liners are going to dry out before the next blizzard. Who doesn't dream of spring when the first tender blooms start to appear? Those gardening catalogs just seem to rub Ice Melt in the wound. It doesn't seem like spring is every going to arrive! But arrive it will, and you need to be prepared to provide a bountiful buffet for our precious pollinators!
I can tell you our bees are ready and raring to go! Do you know that honey bees don't hibernate? On a nice day the hive will send out scout bees in search of pollen and nectar. These scout bees will do their recon and then go back to their hives to report. They use their wings and bodies to execute a "waggle dance", which is their way of informing their hivemates to the conditions outside. If the scouts fail to find nectar and/or pollen the rest of the bees will remain in the hive, thus conserving their energy and resources.
What you may consider weeds can actually be excellent food sources for pollinators. Right now we have dandelions and henbit blooming in our yard. They may not add beauty to our neighborhood but they are a food source and therefore will be left alone until other things start to bloom in March. While I used to admire those with beautifully manicured lawns I now know that are actually green deserts. In our quest to have perfection and beauty we have destroyed the lifeblood of our pollinators.
Spraying of herbicides and pesticides are extremely harmful to our bees. The FDA continues to allow neonicotinoid pesticides to be used in the U.S., even though these neuro toxic chemicals have been proven to be dangerous to humans and pollinators. The FDA requires farm workers to use protective equipment when handling these toxins. Sadly the bees aren't given the same protections. What can we do???
I've never sprayed my lawn for weeds. Even before Bruce got back into beekeeping I was concerned about toxic chemicals in our yard. I wanted to keep our dogs as safe and as healthy as possible. Each winter I go out and pull the bigger weeds with my Garden Weasel The trick is to get the tap root to prevent it from growing back. I also target spray some of the less desirable weeds with a solution of vinegar, dish detergent and salt. Doing this on sunny days works best.
Have you considered planting clover in your yard?
Benefits of a Clover Lawn
Requires no chemicals or fertilizers;
Low or no mow;
Stays green year-round in northern lawns;
Pulls plant-nourishing nitrogen from the environment to replenish the soil;
Chokes out weeds;
Clover flowers support bees;
Rabbits like clover, and many gardeners say Dutch clover planted in the lawn reduces bunny interest in vegetables and other plants.
I've even noticed that I'm cooler when I'm walking through an area of our property that is planted with clover, a big bonus down South in the heat of the summer!
So what about flowers? First and foremost find yourself an organic nursery or gardening catalog. Your pollinators will be much more productive and healthier too! Not all flowers are bee friendly. Do you love red roses? That's great, but the bees don't! As a matter of fact bees do not see the color red. Red looks black to them so choose blooms that are yellow, blue or purple.
12 Flowers that your bees will love!
Black Eyed Susans
Pale Purple Coneflowers
Don't forget the water! Nectar and pollen gathering is thirsty work! A birdbath with a landing board in your yard helps to whet their whistle!!!
So this is all a great start to your personal property but what can you do on a larger scale?
Growth in our communities means that more undeveloped land is disappearing. Contact your city/county officials and ask that clover or wildflowers be planted in the medians.
While you are on the phone voice your concern over spraying in your community.
Donate pollinator friendly plants to a local school or nursing home.
Support your local beekeepers and organic nurseries.
Let's make 2022 a great year for our pollinators!