Habitat Not Just for Monarchs

David stands next to a brush pile built to support birds and other creatures

There is no doubt that David loves me. Any person that would sweat for hours doing the back-straining work of building brush piles for their wife’s habitat project is running on more than calories. It has got to be love. Last weekend, David and I spent the morning hours of each day building brush piles. We work on habitat for more than just monarchs. Brush piles make a great home for birds, small mammals and other living things. Wildlife need all the help they can get in the changing world humans have made for them.

There are many resources online that can teach you how to build them and discuss in greater detail the benefits. Here is what we did:

I will be adding some game cameras to see who moves into these structures. Even though David and I both tired quickly, we feel so grateful for the ability to help the wildlife that live with us. Each pile takes two and a half hours with a 10 minute water break to build. It is good to do this work now with the temperatures so cool. Thanks also again to our neighbors Ric and Kim who allow us use of their fully electric Polaris, which made the work much easier. We are mindful of native bees that could live in the downed wood. We tried to look for what could be bee holes and not cover them up. Generally they should be ok in the brush pile. Piles are meant to have many openings and not be compact.

Native Bees Still Need Time to Emerge

I am learning a great deal in my Pollinator Stewardship Certification program – particularly about bees. This is an area where I had many deficiencies in knowledge. Because of the cool temperatures, native bees are still developing in their cavities where they were laid last fall. It is important to delay winter clean up, like leaf raking, downed tree removal and pruning dried stems from perennials. I came across this fantastic infographic posted by my friend Ray on social media (with thanks to the creators from the Kanatsiohareke Mohawk Community):

Did you know that 30% of native bees nest in stems, leaf litter, downed branches and other above ground cavities? The other 70% nest below ground either in their own holes or in vacant gopher holes. Most are solitary nesters – in other words, no colony. The exception are bumble bees which live in below ground cavities in very small colonies. They are my favorites because they are so cute, fuzzy and colorful. You can learn more information about bumble bees from the Pollinator Partnership. Most native bees do not live long, especially the males. Females have more time so they can nectar, build their nest, create a large pollen ball and lay their eggs on it. The pollen ball is to give the growing bee baby enough food to fully develop before it emerges. There are 4,000 species of native bees. Check out this handy identification guide and see who is living in your yard, then you can see what you can do to make their environment even better for them to succeed.

Storms Remove Sediment and Plants

The high and fast water flow has deepened water channels and widened creek beds. This has exposed much rock and may have taken many of the plants I painstakingly planted over the years in the several sections of Spring Creek. All I can hope is that they are able to get a foothold down stream and establish new life there.

California Milkweed Continues to Emerge

We are up to seven individuals now! Hoping to break 30 this year as I carefully monitor, graze around and spread seed each year.

Tending to Xerces Plant Plots

Remarkably, 100% of the Xerces plants I planted last November and December are doing extremely well. This past week I have been carefully trimming the grass around each plant to give them a chance at some sunlight and growth. Ok, don’t think I am crazy, but I am cutting the grass with scissors. It allows for greater precision and eliminates the chance I will cut into my plants accidentally in the thicket of grass. The grass grew rapidly as soon as we had a few days of sun and increased temperature obscuring some of the plants. I am carefully trimming the grass instead of pulling it to give any cavity nesting native bees a chance to emerge. This year was cold and cold longer into spring than other years. Like the milkweed, native bees need the soil temps and air to be warmer before they emerge.

Wildflowers and Wanderings

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