Let’s start with the basics. Don’t kill bees, wasps, spiders, and the like on sight. They all have a place in nature and all do good in one any or another; be it pollination, ridding us of crop pests, cleaning up the waste of others, breaking down plant material, etc.
Even the evil mosquito, deerfly and blackfly do good things in nature... sigh! It is time we became more tolerant of all things “creepy” and simply let them live and do what they do, even if we don’t understand what that is. Nature has a plan and executes it perfectly without our interference.
It's good to plant flowers that bloom throughout the season, particularly at this time of year, when pollinators are most stressed due to lack of food sources. Avoid planting non-native species, as these often produce inferior pollen and nectar that the insects can’t use. Native plants are symbiotic with Canada’s wildlife, and the benefits are felt by both, when they are part of your gardening cycle. Support local nurseries that grow and sell native pollinator-friendly plants, such as Paul LaPorte’s ‘Ephemeral Ark Nursery’ (Port Perry), Erika's Nature Nook (Port Perry), ‘Native Plants’ (Claremont), and ‘Grow Wild’ (Omemee).
Paul LaPorte offers the following advice, regarding plants that grow well in north Durham and the Kawarthas, “There are many native plant species to choose from, and many variables are involved, like: soil type, light regime, aesthetics, benefit to pollinators, etc., and it does take some research to find which species are best suited to a given situation.
However, as little as 9 native plant species, in groupings, can provide for multiple types of pollinators throughout the year. With this in mind, it is also important to ensure that you are using local genetic plant material, which is ethically propagated by one of a number of Native Plant Nurseries in Ontario.”
Paul recommends: Spring plantings of; Bloodroot, Sharp-lobed Hepatica, Wild Ginger, Great White Trillium, Mayapple, Prairie Smoke, Red Elderberry, and Serviceberry: Summer plantings of; Canada Mayflower, False Solomon's Seal, Wild Leek, Foxglove Beardtongue, False Sunflower, Wild Bergamot, Black-eyed Susan, Pearly Everlasting, Milkweed, Black Elderberry, and Dogwood: Late Summer/Fall plantings of; Asters, Blue Lobelia, Spotted Joe Pye Weed, and Goldenrod.
Here are more ways to help. One is to reduce the use of pesticides. We already are sensitized to the impacts of pesticide use, but, we must continue to be diligent and let the bugs be. A friend asked me what to do about her rose bush that was being eaten by insects. I suggested she leave them alone and let the bugs have some of the harvest. Killing them, to preserve a garden plant that has no other use than to please us, is unnecessary and harmful. A better solution is to: use a native predator, such as ladybugs to control aphids; plant insect resistant varieties; or simply, plant other desirable species.
A second method is to provide water sources for our pollinators. Moths, butterflies and many bees and wasps get thirsty just like we do. A small water feature is, not only, beneficial to them but aesthetically pleasing also.
You can also, mow your lawn less frequently and let stands of flowers, such as Hawkweed and Yarrow, bloom and go to seed in your lawn to encourage pollinators. Also, petition your municipality; to be pollinator friendly, by building pollinator gardens; and to stop unnecessarily cutting roadside weeds when the flowers are in bloom. This is costly and harmful and should be avoided, unless safety issues are involved.
To reduce the attraction of bees and wasps to areas of human activity, ensure food is covered when dining outside and don’t leave pop cans and food containers uncovered outside, in your recycling bins.
We should also engage others. Reach out and teach your neighbours about the benefits of pollinators. Buy local honey and fruit, to support local farmers who are helping out pollinators. Support organizations that are doing research into saving our pollinators.
These are just some of the things you can do to help all our pollinators.
Geoff Carpentier is a published author, ecotour guide and environmental consultant. Visit Geoff on-line, at www.avocetnatureservices.com and on LinkedIn and Facebook