We are a group of people in the Northern suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul Minnesota who come together to share ideas and support each other as we transition to simpler lives in community with our neighbors and our ecosystem.
Monday, October 10, 2016
Reciprocity for the pollinators
Even this hoverfly needs a winter home. Yup! That's not a bee.
Insect pollinators can spend the winter in a variety of life
stages and this varies, depending on the species. Some have eaten a lot to make it through the winter; others wait in suspense as larvae, pupae or eggs. Most
native bees spend the winter in their nest cells as pupae, emerging as adults
the following spring or summer, so it is critical to protect nesting areas from
disturbance all year long, not just during the nesting season. Old bark, cane, leaves and especially undisturbed soil are
the winter homes of pollinators.
Bumble Bee in my garden!
One exception is bumble bees, which do not overwinter in
their nests. Bumble bees are unusual in that they can still forage in very cold
temperatures due to internal thermoregulation. But in fall, all the males die
off and the new queen searches for a log, tree root, leaf litter, loose soil or
other niche where she waits, already mated and fertilized, to emerge and begin
a new colony when the weather warms.
Another bee that seeks out logs for
winter is the bright green sweat bee, which prefers to nest under peeling bark.
Dead logs are particularly attractive locales. Like her cousin the bumble bee,
it’s only the female that overwinters, and she must quickly rebound to raise a
brood in spring.
Some native bees snuggle into hollow
twigs or the pathways dug by beetle larvae in trees. Mason and leaf-cutter bees
count on these sources, as well as clumps of dried grasses or hollow canes from
brambles or other woody plants, to provide shelter during the winter.
The majority of native bees nest in the ground, finding a sunny spot
that won’t flood. It may be a few inches of bare soil with one nest, or a
colony occupying several feet. You may have mistaken them for anthills or
spider holes. Usually, the mother bee dies at the end of the warm season,
leaving her babies to emerge in spring.
Cecropia moth found at a gas station this summer.. Not a lot of habitat at a gas station.
Butterflies and moths also overwinter in a variety of stages
(egg, larva, pupa, adult) and use plant matter to insulate themselves for the
While the monarch flies south to overwinter in Mexico, most other
butterflies stay put and take shelter somewhere dry and safe until spring. Some
butterflies, like the mourning cloak, comma, question mark, and Milbert’s
tortoise shell, overwinter as adults. They nestle into rock fissures, under
tree bark, or in leaf litter until the days grow longer again and spring
arrives. Butterflies that overwinter in a chrysalis include the swallowtail
family, the cabbage whites and the sulphurs. Many of these chrysalises can be
found either hanging from dead plant stems or tucked into the soil or leaf
Tiger Swallowtail found on one of my hikes this past summer.
Tiger swallowtails that hatch in the summer feed and molt five times,
then pupate and hatch in as little as 15 days. But when the caterpillar pupates
in the fall, the chrysalis is brown instead of green to match the woody brush
where it hangs, and the butterfly won’t emerge until spring.
And still other butterfly species, such as the red-spotted purple, the
viceroy, and the meadow fritillary, spend the winter as a caterpillar rolled
into a fallen leaf or inside the seed pod ofa host plant.
need sheltered areas in which to spend the winter. To provide these safe
havens, set aside undisturbed patches of habitat allowing leaf litter, standing
dead twigs or stems, and other ground cover to remain. Do not till soil where
there might be ground nests. Some other pollinators spend the winter in tall grass,
bushes, trees, piles of leaves or sticks, or on man-made objects.In
general, the best way to protect pollinators in the winter is to leave them
alone. If you need to manage your pollinator meadows by mowing or
burning, try to do so in the late summer or fall while the insects are still
active and can get away.
worth leaving some overgrown, weedy spots, designated pollinator areas, to give
these important insects a winter home.
Bumblebees buzzy about in the flowers
These are the insects you will gladly
welcome come spring and summer in your garden, so why not give them a winter
home in return for their pollination of your garden?