Now that the days of summer gardening are upon us, let's take a minute to think about who is out in the garden with us. Many folks have hummingbird feeders and various other types of bird feeders around to attract birds and keep them fed, but those are just a few of the many other critters that either call the garden home or are just passing through.
Many people don’t realize how important it is to have plants that will be suitable for bees. There are actually a good number of native bees that also make our garden their home. You may be familiar with the common European honeybee, but the typical bumble bee is ground dwelling. They live in burrows - usually under the leaf litter. There are many other solitary bees that make their homes in small holes in trees or in hollowed out reeds. Without a flourishing garden of flowers, these poor little bees might struggle for survival.
There are also several indigenous hoverflies and wasps that help pollinate as well as control less desirable insect pests in your garden. Green gardening and helping bugs and bees thrive is good for us in more ways than one. Just remember that even though a flying insect is not a “typical bee”, does not necessarily mean that it does not have an important job.
Green gardening for our fruits and vegetables
Why are pollinators so important? Because they give us food...that’s why. Apples, pears, persimmons, almonds, figs and most any fruit need flying insects to reproduce.
Figs are especially odd, as there is a very special fig wasp that pollinates them; that’s its role in the ecosystem. Don’t picture a giant stinging wasp, these are little tiny guys, and they have formed a symbiotic relationship with the fig tree. I will let you research fig wasps on your own.
Green gardening means no pesticides
One of the biggest threats to our insect friends are pesticides. Some work by making plants toxic to garden pests, but they also wreak havoc on the insects we need. Stay on the lookout and especially try to avoid “all in one” type herbicides. Google “Neonicotinoid Pesticides” if you want to learn more.
Ladybugs are one of my personal favorites. Years ago, we would buy them from a Seattle man who free ranged them in his studio. It’s really amazing what a heard of ladybugs can do to an aphid-infested plant. They are still available at some nurseries.
Ground beetles are another friend of the gardener in outdoor spaces. The large black iridescent beetles you see under leaf litter are a great help in the garden. They maw down unwanted pests that harm our plants.
So remember, your plants are just part of a little ecosystem and you are the green gardener/caretaker. If you are seeing a lot of bugs and hearing the buzzing of bees as you work outdoors, chances are your plants will also be flourishing and you will continue to grow a healthy garden.