In celebration of National Pollinator Week, I was preparing to write this blog posting about some of my favorite native plants for pollinators. You know, things like New Jersey tea or goldendrod. There are a many critical sources of pollen and nectar for our native bees and other pollinators, but I thought it would be fun to talk a little bit about another crucial component of pollinator support: habitat.
Many of our native pollinators do not nest in native plants, even if they use them for food. So maintaining areas in your garden for these critters to nest is very important.
In many cases, the best habitat is bare, dry soil. Many insects are ground dwelling: they burrow tunnels into bare soil to create space for reproduction and hibernation. While these bees may push through a thin, loose layer of leaves they might avoid heavily mulched areas. Leave plenty of space in your garden where bare soil (possibly lightly shaded) is tolerable. Then tolerate it.
Many other bees will nest in dead tree limbs. Carpenter bees are one of the most common wood-nesting bees in my area: every year, they burrow into the underside of my front porch railings. But they will also find homes in standing snags, undisturbed piles of firewood, and the like.
Native plant gardeners often focus on the native plants, but other factors make for a successful wildlife garden. Earlier, Heather Holm wrote about creating nesting sites for mason bees and Beatriz Moisset wrote about the wintering habits of pollinators.