Building a Pollinator Habitat = Nesting Sites
Where do pollinators nest? What kind of sites do they need?
And here again, what would seem a simple question is anything but –
Butterflies/moths are the only pollinators that do not “nest” at all. Their entire life cycle is accomplished in the open. As they are the preferred protein for bird chicks, the survival rate is only 3-5% in the wild.
The Host plant for the larva (caterpillar) is it’s nesting site.
Eggs are laid under the leaf of the host plant, and the larva feed on the leaves of the plant until they reach full size.
The larva then form a chrysalis (cocoon) and metamorphosize in the cocoon to become the adult.
Adult butterflies do not have mouths, and feed on nectar liquid through their probiscus (long tongue).
Because the probiscus’s vary in length per butterfly species, nectar plants must provide a variety of bloom shapes so all can feed.
Consequently, providing nesting sites for butterflies/moths means you will plant various host and nectar plants all around your property. We’ll get back to this when I do a whole blog on both topics.
Florida is home to more than 300 species of bees.
They vary in size from 2 to 25 mm, and range in color from brown, black or red to metallic green or blue.
Bees in Florida are active most of the year, with a slow down in January/February.
They nest in 3 ways – hive – ground – dead wood/grass.
Honey bees form a hive upon wood, and are the only bee with a by- product from nesting – honey.
Although not native, because they are social, live the longest, and follow the Queen anywhere, they are the managed producers used for pollinating crops.
Most research is based upon the honey bee.
Ground – Native Bees
Bumble bees are social with a queen who emerges, finds a place for a nest in the ground, lays her eggs, and her worker bees develop and emerge as adults.
The queen lives about a year, and the workers about a month.
The queen looks for an unused rodent burrow or spaces under vegetation piles/piles of leaves.
The entire group is between 50 – 400 bees.
What to do? Have a compost/leaf pile over bare ground.
Sweat bees are solitary and burrow directly under leaves/dead plants.
What to do? Provide a compost/leaf pile.
Wood -- Dead
Mason Bees are solitary and lay eggs in holes in trees/soft (dead) wood.
The holes already exist, and the queen lays an egg and fills in the hole with nectar for the larva.
Carpenter Bees are solitary and will burrow through soft wood to form passages for the eggs.
Although they don’t directly interact, they can burrow and lay eggs close to each other.
Old eaves can be a place where the bees collect if the wood is eroding.
Mason/Miner/Sweat bees may also choose to lay eggs in hollow dead grass stems.
What to do? Place a snag (dead limb/tree) in the background with compost/dead leaves and branches. Place it against a fence or a place not largely seen, and continue to pile foliage and lawn debris on it. Then plant attractive plants in front of it. You won’t need to get in it at all, just leave it alone. Do not pack it down hard. One tip, though – do not place it right next to your house/garage.
Overall, providing dead plant material in your landscape in an attractive or unnoticeable way is an excellent way to attract pollinators and make your landscape a living ecosystem.
Next month? Other ways to provide a paradise for pollinators.
See you then --