BY KOKHEONG MCNAUGHTON
Earlier this year, I attended a Zoom meeting to learn about Bee Cities. What would it take for Los Alamos to join the rank of more than 200 city and campus communities across the country where people are actively engaged in creating pollinator-friendly habitats for the preservation of native bees and other pollinators. The first thing is for our County to not use any pesticides on any county land. The rest is up to us gardeners to grow pollinator gardens.
What are pollinator gardens? These are gardens that are predominantly planted with flowers, preferably native ones, that provide nectars and pollens for a wide range of pollinators.
Los Alamos County has obtained its certification as a Community Wildlife Habitat as a result of the work done by PEEC in the certification process. To qualify, we have collectively earned enough points from all the households, community areas, and schools that are certified as Wildlife Habitats. A similar, but quite different, process exits for a community to become a Certified Bee City.
From the Bee City USA website [beecityusa.org]: “In order to be certified as a Bee City affiliate, a city must commit to establishing a standing committee to facilitate community-wide pollinator conservation; to creating and disseminating a list of native plant species and an integrated pest management plan; and to raising community awareness through events and habitat enhancement activities.”
Whether or not we pursue this route, we can all do our little bit to create a bee-friendly community by growing a pollinator garden. Now is the time to collect native seeds when we go for a walk or hike. I carry a paper bag with me to hold the seed heads, spread them out to dry when I get home, and then dissect the seed heads to see if I can find any seeds. Once they are dry, I crush the seed heads (sometimes I use a mortar and pestle to crush them if they are too tough or too prickly to crush by hand) and put them in a jar. I mix them with dry sand and shake them vigorously to break them up further. After a snowfall, I sprinkle them on the snow. The sand granules help the seeds settle deep into the snow so that they won’t blow away or be eaten by birds. There they’ll stay dormant until it’s time to sprout next spring. Many seeds need to stratify to germinate properly. Stratification is the process by which the seeds are subjected to changing temperatures of freezing and thawing several times during the winter months.I have several sections in my backyard devoted to growing bee-friendly flowers. When they are in bloom, I enjoy sitting in my garden chair and watching bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds come to feast on the nectars and pollens. By not using pesticides and growing bee-friendly flowers, some native, some cultivated, I’m doing my little bit to help preserve native bees and other pollinators.
I hope you are too!
A section of KokHeong’s pollinator-friendly garden Courtesy photo