Bees and Butterflies add much to my garden excitement. Bee and butterfly gardeners reap many rewards considering they often enjoy the same colorful flowers the insects rely on. Insects can add color, beauty and grace to your garden. It’s delightful to discover the array of activity bouncing on each bloom and blossom, such a garden is sure to win compliments from your friends, family and neighbors.
As a naturalist, I offer interpretive walks and talks to visitors of all ages in an effort to educate, entertain and enrich their lives with the natural environment. While one can never guarantee wild nature observations, you can increase your odds of encounters through the art of turning your yard into a wildlife habitat. All you need to provide are the following four elements: food, water, shelter and space. It’s as easy as 1,2,3,4.
Let’s Eat – We all need food. Wildlife eats a variety of food found in nature, some that we can provide. Tip: By planting a variety of plants that seed, flower and fruit throughout the year, you’ll provide a banquet for wildlife.
Puddle Party – Butterflies will visit wet soil to sip water and obtain salt and mineral nutrients using their proboscis. This act is known as mud-puddling.Tip: Provide a small pile of moist sand to attract butterflies.
Leave ‘Em Standing – Clumps of dead flowers, grasses and vines make cozy hideouts for insects to use as shelter. Tip: Leave inconspicuous areas of your yard wild for wildlife.
Pile it On – Pile up rocks or fallen branches lying in your yard. Put the biggest stuff on the bottom. Presto! A comfy home for hibernating butterflies, beetles, snakes, frogs and toads! Tip: Put the biggest stuff on the bottom.
Delightful Decomposers – Rotting logs provide homes for pill bugs, centipedes, millipedes and more. Tip: Allowing rotting logs to decompose also helps improve the soil.
Give Me Shelter – Many Native bees may nest in hollow stemmed plants or holes found in trees. Tip: Create a Native Bee Nesting Block to attract native pollinators to your garden. Drill holes between 3/32″ and 3/8″ diameter and 3″4″ deep in un-treated lumber.
All Native – Focus on native plants that are good for native wildlife. Remember native plants feed and attract native animals. Tip: Go native and avoid foreign, invasive plant species.
Free Your Lawn – All Natural – Manicured Lawns are largely useless to wildlife, there’s no food, no place to hide and no shelter. Consider allowing native plants to takeover where mowing isn’t necessary. Tip: Allow for a low maintenance natural lawn and bees, butterflies and birds will be thankful. Mow your lawn less often.
All Natural – Pesticides and herbicides are bad for pollinators, and without pollination many plant species cannot thrive. Tip: Organic gardening can reduce the need for synthetic chemicals.
Beneficial Bugs Kick Pests-a-side – Ladybugs and hoverflies are considered beneficial bugs because they eat aphids, a plant pest, which can destroy garden plants. Tip: Allowing these beneficial bugs to reside in your yard reduces the need to use pesticides.
No Yard? – Add wildlife friendly plants to containers, window boxes and balconies. Tip: Growing cooking herbs like dill, fennel and parsley will also attract pollinators.
Plant Seeds – Share and collect native plant seeds with other gardeners. Create a garden that includes a mixture of the best host and nectaring plants for pollinators. Tip: One seed can make a difference. We need you to plant it!
Create a Pond – Pond habitats provide space for a variety of wildlife to survive and thrive. You will be dumbfounded by dragonflies and dazzled by damselflies. Tip: Add wetland plants to create habitat for aquatic insect larvae.
Uncover and Discover – Bees and butterflies may be most active during the middle of the day after many birds have begun to rest. Tip: After early morning birding, search for bees, butterflies and dragonflies in the middle for the best results.
Most Importantly…Share Your Habitat
The best place to learn about the environment is in the environment. Creating backyard or schoolyard habitats provide places for children to explore and discover the natural world around them. Backyard habitats can beautify, entertain, educate and enrich our lives so make sure to invite neighbors and friends over to see what you have accomplished.
Finally…Create a Naturalists Kit to Explore and Enjoy a Habitat!
Bring along tools that will help you explore, discover and appreciate the wonders found in your habitats. Tip: Include a magnifying glass, binoculars, note pad & pencil, field guide and camera.
David Alexander is author of the Buzz Into Action & Hop Into Action Science Curricula. He specializes in making nature accessible to people and wildlife. You can follow him at www.natureintoaction.com