By Sherie Shaffer, Horticulture Agent, CSU Extension-Pueblo County
Warm weather and flower blooms have gone away, but pollinators and wildlife still look to our yards and gardens for survival! Whether it’s shelter or food, we can help buzzing bees and feathered friends by making careful considerations in our landscapes this winter.
First of all, where do these creatures go during the winter? Some butterflies, most notably monarchs, are known for migrating to warmer climates during the winter. However, there are plenty of pollinators and other wildlife that will spend winter in Colorado. Most of our native bee species (which are very important pollinators of native flowers!) don’t survive as the adults we are used to seeing, but as eggs in a nest that their mother has prepared for them. Once the weather starts to warm they will complete their growth into an adult bee and emerge right in time to pollinate flowers. Many birds will migrate south for the winter, but there are many species that will brave the long Colorado winter, even in the mountains. These birds use strategies such as molting, diet changes, torpor (a type of temporary hibernation) and even cuddling up together to share body heat.
|Ground nesting bee- Xerces Society|
So what can you do to help pollinators and wildlife during the winter? It turns out there are a lot of very simple things you can do at home that will make a big difference!
I feel like I am a bit of broken record on this one, but don’t rake up your leaves! Bumblebee queens, larva of butterflies and moths, and even beneficial insects like lady bugs will overwinter in a leaf pile and be ready to emerge into your landscape in spring.
|Lady bug on fall leaves- 123rf|
Try to avoid disturbing possible nesting sites as much as possible. Many of our native bees nest either in bare soil or in hollow stems of plants. Making sure you leave the bare soil undisturbed as long as possible, and waiting to cut back plants until spring will ensure that nests are able to survive until spring.
Continue to put out food for the birds. Black oil sunflower seeds are a preferred food for many wild birds. Some other birds are particularly attracted to suet. This article from Gilpin County Extension gives a lot more great tips on feeding birds. Also, next spring consider planting a shrub with berries like a golden currant or three leaf sumac that will help keep the birds fed next winter.
|Birds feeding- Boulder Home and Garden Magazine|
Winter is almost here, time to relax indoors and dream of spring blooms to come, but the pollinators are still out there, so give them a boost where you can!