Bees Knees, Pretty Ladies & Crawlies

As a kid, I always thought only bees were pollinators and if we ever lost them, then we would be completely doomed because we would have no food. Luckily we have a lot of pollinators out there, bees are just the best a what they do. As I continue to watch the bugs in the yard, I regularly check to see which are friend and which are foe. It has been surprising to learn just how many are helping pollinate the garden.

As any gardener would attest, pollinators are an absolute must have in order to have a successful garden. My favourite pollinators are the standard bumble bee with their big, rotund bodies and fluffy bums that stick out of the flowers, legs kicked in the air, while they root for pollen. It’s the fuzziness of them that is the reason they are so great at carrying pollen from one plant to the next. It sticks to their feather like hairs, ensuring large quantities of pollen is being carried. And if you have ever watched these funny bees, you will know that they like to shove their bodies right into the flowers allowing the pollens to mix. Not only entertaining but very useful. And they are as friendly as their stature looks. They just want to go about their business and hate confrontation, meaning they rarely sting. I often sit and watch them gorge in the garden, enjoying their chill disposition.

There area many types of bees that we may find in our gardens. Little sweat bees, mason bees, leaf cutter bees and so many more. Creating the right environments in the garden mean that you will have plenty of bees visiting. With our new permanent wall beds, there are now new areas of habitat for bees to enjoy, ensuring we have a variety living in or near the garden. As we continue to landscape, we do plan to add more areas for our bee friends, including choosing flowers that they like best. We are those people that let the dandelions take over our lawn in the spring. They are generally the first source of food for the bees, so we make sure they have a smorgasbord to enjoy.

Although I don’t like wasps, they too can be good for our garden pollination. The key here, at least for us, is to let them enjoy the garden as a visitor but not stick around. We prefer that they use our area as a pass-through stop while they are away from their nests exploring. We actively discourage any nest building, but try not to kill many, unless they are making a nuisance of themselves. Most will move along, but you get the odd one that believes tu casa es mi casa.

Beetles and lady bugs are also good pollinators, though not as good as our bee friends. Lady bugs and other beetles tend to be helpful not only pollinating, but also getting rid of some of our pesky garden bugs like aphids. While they are busy hunting and enjoying their dinners, they tend to meander through the garden, including flowers and pollen. They then visit other flowers while on the hunt for more tasty pests. Their never ending prowl for more food keeps them moving and spreading pollen, which makes them a double-whammy helper in the garden. Although, they can be a little finicky. I have brussels sprouts that now have to come out due to my losing battle with aphids and despite trying to move the lady bugs from the sunflowers down to the brussels sprouts, they seem to have no interest. They just buzz back to where I moved them from. Oh well.

Butterflies not only help pollinate, but like bumble bees are an enjoyable insect to watch in the garden. We have plans for butterfly gardens full of the flowers that attract them, as well as butterfly feeding dishes. With all their varieties, they add even more splashes of colours to the garden. And their benefits do outweigh their detriments. Although, I don’t like the white butterflies that are in abundance this year, laying eggs all over my brussels sprouts resulting in cabbage worm (caterpillars). Conveniently, the bright neon green caterpillars are easy to see and remove from the plants before they can cause too much damage. I battled them in the spring and won, and haven’t been finding any more since late June.

Many other bugs such as moths, mosquitos, ants, and flies are also beneficial to the pollination of garden plants. Sometimes their benefit has to be weighed with their detriments. For example, no one likes swarms of mosquitos flying around. Although they can help pollinate, their nuisance greatly outweighs their help. Ants can be hit and miss. We find that in our yard, they are quite helpful. We do not see evidence of them eating our garden, yet when we look, we can often find colonies around our yard. Perhaps they prefer the wild grass or weeds that we still currently have growing. Plus, they stay out of our house, so they are welcome to setup shop. Moths are hit and miss. I generally leave them be, however if they are reproducing at fast rates and laying eggs everywhere on my house and around lights, then they start to move into pest territory and need to be deterred from sticking around on a permanent basis. Flies are going to be around regardless, so I might as well think positively about them and their assistance in pollinating the garden.

Although not all garden bugs are pollinators, they certainly have their uses….well most do. Although I dislike them, spiders are important to a garden ecosystem. They help keep bug populations down and can be a great help with some of the more pesky bugs like mosquitoes. Some spiders to also have some pollinator tendencies, but it is purely accidental. The crab spider can be helpful in some types of plant pollination as they setup shop to catch bugs from those plants. Their constant movement around the plant can help bring pollen from branch to branch. They can’t be relied on though for good pollination and are just accidental pollinators. Plus, they sometimes eat the good guys. I’ll keep them around as long as they leave me alone.

I started off strong this year in taking photos of all the bugs, but need to get back to it. Part of my problem in lack of bug pictures for the last month may also be due to the smoke that is coating our province, likely resulting in stunted bug activity. Or maybe I am just spending less time in the smokey air, meaning I don’t have the time to catch sight of them. Either way, I look forward to blue skies and more bugs.

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