BEE Friendly in Your Spring Clean-up

It’s been an icy and cold winter in southern Ontario and I just can’t wait to see signs of growth in our new naturalized garden. I’ve noticed my neighbours at the end of March are eager to get out there, beginning to rake and dispose of ‘debris’ such as fallen tree leaves and last year’s perennial stalks. Scientists at the Xerces Society note that doing these types of chores in early spring, is actually harmful to the native pollinator population as well as important beneficial insects such as Lacewings, Assassin bugs & Ladybugs. What are the best practices in supporting biodiversity in our gardens in spring?

Adult Lacewing
Lacewing Larva

Here’s what I’ve found from my research:

When:

  • Has your snow shovel moved back into storage?
  • Have you submitted your taxes?
  • Are you comfortable hiking without mitts and a hat?
  • Are lawns in the area (minus those on heavy-duty fertilizing programs) starting to grow and need mowing?
  • Have the fruit trees in the area finished blooming?

If you answered YES to all of these questions, then most of our local pollinators have emerged and it is a safe time to begin your spring clean-up. Many beneficial insects do not emerge from their winter homes (under plant debris, inside hollow stems), until temperatures are consistently above 10 C. If you truly can’t wait, trim stems and pile them nearby so that the emerging insects have time to leave their winter home.

How:

Ladybug larva
  • Trim stems from perennials and grasses, carefully watching for insects over-wintering in a cocoon.
Praying Mantis cocoon
  • Pile plant debris near compost area or in the back of the garden, so that late emerging bees and beneficial or pupating insects such as lacewings, will have time to emerge
  • Leave some broken down leaf litter around the base of plants. It will act as a mulch, preserving soil moisture and reducing growth of weeds
  • Avoid spreading mulch in all areas of the garden (70% of bees nest in undisturbed soil). Leave a little bare soil to provide nesting areas for native pollinators

Here’s a great poster from Heather Holm about Ground Nesting bees.

Happy Gardening,

Janet Mackey


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