Planting for pollinators

Here in northern Indiana, winter is still in full force. Groundhog Day predictions point to more icy weather for weeks to come. But the winter solstice is past, days are getting longer, and our queen bees will soon be brooding up for spring blooms.

Our bees start bringing in pollen on the first sunny, windless days of the year. If the temperature rises above about 50° F, workers will be out foraging on the earliest blooming plants.

Pussywillow catkin, loaded with pollen.
Pussywillows are an important source of early nectar in our area.

We’re blessed to be in a neighborhood with many mature trees. Maples yield heavy loads of pollen. We’ve added other early-blooming plants to our landscape, including crocuses, snowdrops, pussywillows, and crab apples.

Early pollen sources provide essential protein for honey bees as our queens start laying their body weight in eggs every day, and our hives hatch 1,500 to 2,000 baby bees each day. Soon, our honey bee colonies will be racing to build up their numbers to take full advantage of summer nectar flows.

It’s encouraging to see many property owners replacing portions of their lawns with flowers to benefit honey bees and other pollinators. We have some troublesome spots in our yard that are hard to maintain. This year, those areas will become pollinator patches.

Wildflower seeds.
Some of our wildflower seeds for this season.

We’ve ordered wildflower seeds — including many native plants — for the new garden area. We’ll soon be sprouting or direct-sowing these for the bees:

  • Aster
  • Bergamot
  • Butterfly milkweed
  • Creeping thyme
  • Crimson clover
  • Cup plant
  • Figwort
  • Joe Pye Wees
  • Mountain mint
  • Swamp milkweed

These and others will join the buddleia, pussywillows, hyssop, and raspberries we planted last year.

Here’s an article that shares another property owner’s efforts to transform suburban lawn to biodiverse meadow:

Staff Stories: Life in the Suburbs

Pollinator garden replaces a portion of this suburban lawn.
Suburban meadows are beautiful and promote biodiversity.

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