- Contributor: Dona Jenkins
When we talk with gardeners about attracting native bees to their garden we stress the fact that bees need floral resources (pollen and nectar) all year long. Adult bees feed on sugary nectar for energy. The pollen they collect is a protein and vitamin rich source which they will feed to their young. Nectar and pollen are combined to form a “bee loaf” that females provide for their larvae to feed on. Bees have seasonal emergence patterns, which means that different species emerge from their nests at different times of the year. Some species emerge in very early spring, February and March, whereas others come out later in spring as well as in summer and early fall. Bees have timed their emergence with the bloom of native flowers they prefer to forage on, but will also visit non-native ornamental flowers that may be in bloom at the same time. Some early flowering plants that provide food for bees includes: CA Lilac (Ceanothus sp.), Manzanita (Arctostaphylos sp.), Wisteria (Wisteria sp.), and Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans).
Provide Cover and Places to Raise Young
Other garden visitors need places to raise young as well. Bird and bat houses are easy to build and can provide protected areas for nests and roosting. Bat houses should be mounted 12-15 ft. above the ground and protected from the wind and are most successfully colonized if you live close to water. Birdhouses can be mounted anywhere from 5-30 ft. above ground. Not all birds have the same nesting preferences so set up many houses in different parts of the garden to have the best success. Plants can also provide places to raise young for insects like butterflies. Butterflies need larval host plants for caterpillars to feed on, like milkweed (Asclepias spp.), if you want to attract Monarch butterflies to your garden. Research the wildlife you see in your garden in order to pick the right plants and provide the best nesting requirements. Cover can be provided in the form of thickets and brambles, as well as with log or rock piles.
Garden design is also important when planning your habitat garden, especially with the goal of attracting native bees. We have found that large patches of one single plant type are the most attractive to bees as well as butterflies. If you have the space, a patch size of at least one meter by one meter should be designated for each plant species. The patches provide more resources (nectar and pollen rewards) and allow bees to forage in one spot for a long period of time. If plants are scattered it means bees have to spend a lot of energy flying from one plant to the next making them less efficient pollinators and harder to observe at work in the flowers.
As well as having large patch sizes of flowers, diversity is also important. Native bees are more likely to forage on native plants, so the more diversity of plants the better. We have repeatedly observed that the more varied gardens contain more diversity and abundance of bees as well. There are many attractive non-native plants, but selection of these should be careful. For instance, roses are not good bee plants because they have been bred to produce many showy petals replacing anthers, the reproductive parts of the flower, which is where bees get pollen.
Providing all these resources for the wildlife in your garden will all be for naught if you aren't employing sustainable gardening practices. Having a healthy garden will benefit the soil, air, and water, which will then in turn benefit all the critters in your garden. The use of pesticides will be harmful to all the animals and especially insects that you are trying to attract. There are natural home-made remedies that can be used to help rid your garden of pests. Some insects that you may consider pests, like wasps, are actually beneficial because they feed on some of the damaging caterpillars, hornworms, and flies. You can even purchase ladybugs to feed on the aphids in your garden if you have a bad infestation. Some other sustainable gardening practices that should be considered and practiced include: composting, limiting water usage, capturing rain water, using native plants that are adapted to your area, and using organic fertilizers. Consider getting your garden certified as a wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife Federation and join us in becoming one of over 100,000 certified habitats!
Bee Garden Plants
Flowers that provide both pollen and nectar are a necessity for your bee garden (see above in Habitat Gardening section for explanation). Plants in the Asteraceae (Compositae) family provide both resources and there are numerous native and non-native flowers to choose from. Imagine a sunflower (Helianthus annuus), this is a typical Asteraceae flower that is made up of both disk flowers (the tiny flowers in the center) as well as ray flowers (the larger petals on the edge of the flower). The center of the flower is where the bee gets nectar and pollen. If you see a bee inserting its' proboscis (tongue) into the disc flowers, it is most likely collecting nectar. If the bee isn't taking a drink it may be “dancing” around on the flower collecting pollen, which it will pack onto its' hairy legs or abdomen (some bees even ingest pollen to be regurgitated later). After watching bees drinking and dancing on flowers it will become more evident as to the resource they are after. Flowers in the Asteraceae family are good for bees because they don't have to work too hard to get what they want. The flower presents its resources on a pedestal and even gives the bee a nice landing area.
One family of plants that provides a good source for nectar is the Lamiaceae (mint family). These flowers, made up of five fused petals, are usually irregular in shape, have square stems, and are usually quite fragrant. Bees will hang on the outside of the flower and insert their proboscis inside to gain access to the sweet nectar. Many of the herbs that we like to cook with, like basil and lemon balm, are in the mint family, so not only do they provide us with food, but the bees as well.
The following graph provides the home gardener an idea of the time of year when certain plants (pollen, nectar, pollen/nectar) should be available to bees. It is based on findings from our experimental bee garden at the Oxford Tract in Berkeley. Please note that our garden is larger than most home gardens, at 16ft. x 185ft. We also have the ability to plant a wide variety of species, both native and non-native, in our garden, ~120 species to date. Make adjustments as to the size of your garden, but try to incorporate at least 15-20 different species even in the smallest of gardens. As you can see the peak time in which most flowers should be available is in late spring and early summer. This also corresponds to when the highest diversity of bees can bee observed. California natives tend to flower more in early spring and summer, whereas non-native ornamentals bloom mainly in late summer to fall, so a combination of both would be ideal for attracting the highest potential diversity of bees. Pollen/nectar plants and nectar plants are the most abundant all year while pollen only plants represent a small, but important, percentage of the flowering plants.
The next step of starting your habitat bee garden is the design. Where and how do you arrange all the plants that you have? First you must consider the size of your space, do you have a small area in your front yard, or a much larger space in which to freely plant as you'd like? The types of plants you will incorporate into your garden will depend on the size of your garden. Investigate the plants you want and find out how large they will become at maturity before placing them in your garden. If you have a small space you may want to stick to small/medium perennials with open spots for small annuals. If you have more room you can plant larger shrubs and even some small trees that will not only provide food resources but cover and nesting resources as well. Most of the plants we recommend do best in full sun, with the exception of a few shade tolerant plants like chinese houses (Collinsia heterophylla) and hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea).
The following is an example of what you can do with a front yard 30ft. x 30ft. garden space. Plants are a combination of native and non-native and selected to provide flowering throughout the “bee year”, March-October. Taller and larger perennials are on the edges of the garden so that the smaller perennials and annuals are not hidden from view. A bird bath provides water for all the critters. Bee nest boxes could be hung underneath an overhang or some place where they can be protected from the elements. Place large rocks or stones in any bare spots to provide a landing spot for butterflies to warm themselves. Try not to mulch and leave bare soil exposed for ground nesting bees.
Consult the following references for more information on the above species as to their size, flower color, water, and possible soil requirements: Sunset's Western Garden Book, Annuals for Northern California by Bob Tanem and Don Williamson, Trees and Shrubs of California by John Stuart and John Sawyer, Plants of the San Francisco Bay Region by Linda Beidleman and Eugene Kozloff, Introduction to California Spring Wildflowers of the Foothills, Valleys, and Coast by Philip Munz, Flowering Plants of the Santa Monica Mountains, Coastal and Chaparral Regions of Southern California by Nancy Dale, the California Native Plant Society (www.cnps.org), and Cal Photos for pictures of native plants.
Also, the above plants will also attract other flower visitors besides bees. For example: Rudbeckia spp., Aster spp., Coreopsis spp., Ceanothus spp., Collinsia heterophylla, Erigeron glaucus, Eriogonum spp., Monardella spp.,Scrophularia californica, and Epilobium canum are all butterfly plants. Hummingbirds will visit hummingbird sage (Salvia spathecea), CA fuschia (Epilobium canum), Salvia ‘Indigo Spires', Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans), and Salvia ‘Hot Lips' (Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips'). A number of beneficial flies and wasps also visit many bee plants, especially all the different kinds of native buckwheat's (Eriogonum spp.). Have fun experimenting with different plants and flowers and enjoy watching all the wildlife that will soon be visiting your garden!
Good luck and have fun!
- Author: Michele Martinez
Mistletoe, Friend or Foe? Holiday Cheer and Tree Health
The holiday custom of a kiss beneath the mistletoe comes to us from England. During the twelve days of Christmas, the English traditionally decked their halls with kissing boughs. Made of evergreens, apples and mistletoe, a kissing bough signified both goodwill, and romance. Anyone standing beneath the mistletoe surrendered a kiss. With each kiss, a mistletoe berry was picked, and when the berries were gone, kissing time was done.
With its velvety green leaves and pearly, translucent berries, mistletoe has long been a curiosity. It is the source of many traditions. Both Native American and European healers have used the plant for its medicinal properties. For the Celtic Druids, mistletoe was a symbol of protection, and peace. In Norse folklore, it is associated with the god Balder, the son of Odin and Frigg, and a favorite of his parents. As the tale goes, Frigg foresaw her son's death in a dream. To protect him, she enlisted the help of every plant and animal on earth, but she forgot about poor mistletoe. When Loki, a trickster, learned of Frigg's error, he used a small twig of mistletoe to strike down the young god. The devastated parents wished to resurrect their son. With help from the goddess of the underworld, and many tears shed in his honor, Balder, the light-bearer eventually returned. With him he brought brighter days, and the first signs of spring. Mistletoe's translucent berries were said to symbolize the tears of the gods, reminding the people of the cyclical nature of life, from loss to renewal.
We know mistletoe is a symbol of holiday cheer, but is the parasitic plant harmful to trees? Mistletoe Warriors is a
For more information on mistletoe management, visit the University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources Integrated Pest Management Program (UC-IPM) page on mistletoe management: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7437.html
by Michele Martínez, Mountain Master Gardener
- Author: Michele Martinez
Hypertufa is an odd sounding name. It comes from the word tufa defined as a porous rock composed of calcium carbonate and formed by precipitation from water, e.g. around mineral springs. Visitors to Mono Lake have seen tufa in the shape of craggy sand castle-like formations. In Europe, soft tufa stone was traditionally used in the construction of everything from stone walls to feed troughs for livestock. Both the Etruscans and the Romans used the material, and today ancient tufa relics are a part of the charm of the English countryside.
In 1930s England, antique tufa troughs became fashionable as garden pieces, but they were pricey, and became hard to find. As the story is told, resourceful gardeners came up with a recipe for making an artificial tufa-like material. The name Hyper-tufa was adopted to mean man-made tufa. Over the years, the recipe has not changed much. Of the three components, Portland cement, peat, and perlite, each plays an important role in making a super light, yet durable container. Portland cement is strong and moldable. Perlite (kiln-puffed volcanic pumice) adds lightness. Peat, a natural sod material, adds body, and distributes moisture evenly. Because peat is a non-sustainable resource, some Hypetrtufa makers replace peat with coconut fiber. Coco husk is plentiful, and its long fibers add extra strength to the mix. When combined with the right amount of water, the ingredients form a clay-like substance that's easily molded into containers of all sizes.
The three-part photo shows Hypertufa planters made for our Lake Arrowhead garden. The 20 inch pots are small pollinator habitats that attract hummingbirds and bees. The containers are light enough to move around the property. The flowering plants spend the warm season well protected from burrowing ground squirrels and gophers that tend to devastate mountain gardens. If you decide to go with Hypertufa, remember the material is porous, so tropical plants may not do so well. Hypertufa pots make a perfect home for dry-climate natives, and desert plants, and add a touch of rustic charm to the garden.
By Michele Martinez, Lake Arrowhead, Mountain Master Gardener
- Author: Michele Martinez
With winter approaching, Southern Californians look forward to at least a few quenching rains. As we anticipate the season, rain barrels offer gardeners a convenient way to capture and save every drop of the precious resource. A well-placed fifty gallon rain barrel provides water for the garden and other outdoor uses. Two or three hours of rainfall can replenish a couple of rain barrels, so that water is ready for the next week's dry spell.
Rain barrels are sold both at local nurseries and bog box stores, and come in a variety of styles. Barrels generally hold up to fifty gallons, and are easily connected to rain gutters using downspout connectors. Many commercial rain barrels come with connector kits, spigots and detachable hoses for easy watering. Rain barrels should always be lidded to prevent mosquito breeding, and drained when freezing temperatures come. SoCal WaterSmart website offers tips on how to place, and maintain rain barrels: http://socalwatersmart.com/images/PDFs/scws_rainbarrels.pdf
Many Southern California cities encourage the use of rain barrels, and some San Bernardino County water agencies offer rebates of up to $75. per rain barrel (up to two barrels per residence). SoCalWater Smart provides a link to rebate information by zip code: http://www.socalwatersmart.com/?page_id=2973
By Michele Martinez, Master Gardener, Arrowhead
- Author: Dona Jenkins
Some people are interested in encouraging bat populations by installing artificial roosting sites or bat boxes. Bat houses aren't likely to discourage bats from roosting in nearby buildings, and there is no clear evidence that their installation will significantly reduce garden insect problems. If you chose to put up a bat house, make sure it is in an area that has minimal disturbance from people and animals. Sometimes sick bats fall out of the roost where children and household pets easily can pick them up.
Bat houses and bat-house designs are widely available commercially. Follow the guidelines below when constructing and installing a bat house:
- Use rough-sided wood on the interior of the house. Horizontally groove the interior surface for toe holds.
- Roosting chambers should be 1/2 to 1 inch wide; chambers larger than 1 inch invite wasps.
- Caulk outside seams to limit airflow.
- Use roofing felt (tar paper) or dark roof shingles on top and 6 inches down the sides to increase inside temperatures; a 90°F inside temperature is ideal.
- Install bat houses at least 10 feet above ground with an eastern or northern exposure. Bats prefer houses that get morning sun and afternoon shade.
- Protect the house from prevailing winds, if possible, and provide an unobstructed approach for flying bats.
This excerpt is from ipm.ucanr.edu./h4>