Today is the first day of spring, I’ve been told. It doesn’t really feel like it here yet. It snowed all day yesterday and I woke up to deep blue sky and cold. I can hear the birds chirping outside my kitchen window, but perhaps it’s just their beaks chattering in the cold. With the snow blanketing the ground, the few bare patches on the pasture are covered again. So I have to content myself with surfing the internet and considering my garden plans instead of actually getting outside and digging in the dirt.
So to celebrate the spring that is sure to come…someday…soon… here are some internet articles to help you make your garden, yard, or homestead more attractive to the birds and the bees. This is super important with the current crisis in the honey bee population. Native bees, butterflies, and birds are pollinators, too, and as gardeners we need to actively encourage their health, nourishment, and reproduction if we want to keep them around.
Other birds and insects are beneficial pest controllers. Swallows, blue birds, dragon flies, and lady bugs take care of pests so you don’t have to resort to harmful poisons.
Even amphibians can help make your garden more productive.
Attracting song birds to your garden by providing nesting boxes
You can increase the song bird population around your garden by providing predator proof nesting sites. Many songbirds eat the insects that plague you and your garden. Blue birds and swallows both consume mosquitoes and other pests as well as providing entertainment as they swoop close to the ground in the evenings, when these pests are active.
Swallow Nesting Boxes Fraser Valley Birding
Blue bird nesting boxes North American Bluebird Society
These birdhouses, while practical are more whimsical and decorative. Make a birdhouse – Canadian Living
You can also grow birdhouse gourds, dry the gourds and make a bird house for purple martins.
Feed the Hummingbirds with native plants
While many people mix sugar and water to provide nectar for hummingbirds, you can also feed them with native plants. Fuchsias and other red, trumpet shaped flowers are perfect garden plants to attract hummers, but there are others that are just as attractive.
Attracting Hummingbirds to your Wildlife Garden
Planting a bee and butterfly garden
Bees and butterflies need both nesting and egg laying sites, as well as pollen to thrive in your garden. Planting a wide variety of flowering and pollen bearing plants will ensure that your bee and butterfly population is varied and healthy. A healthy population of native pollinators will help all your flowering plants bear fruit.
Check out these suggestions for attracting native bees and butterflies to your homestead.
The Honeybee Conservancy » Plant a Bee Garden
Gardening for bees | Bumblebee Conservation Trust
This next resource is especially helpful, as they include diy instructions for creating a bee or butterfly watering area, and building a mason bee house. Be sure to watch the helpful video.
Building housing areas for native bees and beneficial insects
When we lived in Mission, BC, we had a healthy native population of blue mason bees. We took blocks of cedar wood, drilled holes in them, and set them out. It wasn’t long before every hole was filled and we had a strong population of native bees around our cherry and apple trees. But a few years later, we found that the wood peckers had also found the nesting sites and in just a few minutes our bee hotel was decimated.
Here’s a better way to provide housing – one that attracts a wider variety of native pollinators.
Ladybug hotels to help them overwinter
Another story from our years on the acre in Mission, BC — our garden in Mission was a zone 7B. The winters were pretty mild – rarely colder than -5C and there was only about a month when the weather stayed below freezing during the day. It was a damp area – pacific rain forest – with moss and dripping eaves daily, except for a few weeks in the middle of August. Every winter, our 80 year old house with single paned windows, would be invaded by lady bugs. You get 20 or 30 ladybugs in a room and there is a distinct odor. Try to scoop out the 100 ladybugs, to send them back outside, and they give off a distress pheromone that is just as bad as a stink bug. Even the cat didn’t want to eat them.
In Mission, BC, there is a grotto for an icon to the Queen of Heaven aka, “Our Lady of Lourdes” and one winter that grotto had an invasion of ladybugs. There were millions of ladybugs all over the building. The walls of the grotto were white, but you could not see a single inch of white because of the mass of lady bugs. The grotto had windows to bring light onto the icon, and if you could look in, you would see millions of ladybugs on the inside walls of the grotto, as well, as the outside walls. The ladybugs swarmed to the side of the building – a 6 sided structure with a cupola roof and a white cross. They spent the day on the warm side, basking in the sun. At night they crept in through the ventilation grates to keep warm. They swarmed enmass like a living organism and you could hear them and smell them as you got closer to the building.
While you want the ladybugs in your garden to keep the aphids under control, you don’t want them in your house. Build a few ladybug houses for your garden to help them overwinter, and they won’t need to seek shelter in your home.
Make Your Own Ladybug Nesting Box | Crafty Mom and Handy Dad
Encourage frogs by making a frog shelter with broken pottery
Making a frog shelter for your garden is the easiest project to encourage these helpful, insect eaters. They require a cool, damp, shady spot to get out of the hot noonday sun, and a place to escape the chickens and cats. Have you ever seen a chicken with a frog in its beak? Not a pretty situation for the frog. Pretty funny, though, to watch. My black bantam araucana hen ran around with a little tree frog dangling from her beak, being chased by the rest of the flock, who all wanted her treat. And the little black hen swallowed the frog whole. Shocking!
It would be good if you could prevent these tragedies by providing shelter for the frogs, so they have an escape plan, when the hens are scratching nearby. Save up the broken pottery dishes (do you have as much broken pottery as I have?) and you’ll have the perfect start for this quick project.
Place it in a shady spot behind your garden fence and leave some grass growing around it for shelter.