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Springtime means flowers! And inevitably along with the flowers come bees and butterflies! So why not plant a pollinator garden to make sure they have everything they need? This is a great activity to get kids involved in!
Gardening is already a great option for kids for so many reasons! It gets them outdoors, gives them something to take care of, and teaches them responsibility along with some basic biology. Overall, teaching kids about pollinators can be super beneficial!
At the very least, they hopefully won’t go into absolute hysterics anymore when a bee buzzes near them. Understanding generally eliminates fear. We’ve talked about bees and pollination with our 4-year-old a lot this spring while outside. So much so that he recently informed me, “I know how to navigate with bees. Just let them do their business!” Indeed.
On top of achieving enlightenment concerning all buzzing creatures, having your kids help you create a pollinator garden can demonstrate some practical ways to take care of the earth.
If you want to go over a little more basic info with them about bees and why they’re important, grab this free printable before you go! Here’s the basic rundown:
- The process of pollination is necessary for several plants to be able to produce fruits and vegetables.
- It’s estimated that 1/3 of the world’s food production depends on pollination!
- Bee and Monarch butterfly populations (among others) have been severely on the decline.
- Crop yields in America for certain fruits are already getting smaller. Read more here to see which crops are currently at the highest risk for a decline in production.
Since pollination is such an important process, let’s do a little extra to help out! Here are some practical ways to create a pollinator garden in your own yard!
1. Set up a bee home.
Since loss of habitat is a huge issue for pollinators, one thing we can do is provide some shelter for them! Bee homes provide a place for bees to lay their eggs. However, after doing a little bit of research into these, I found out that some types of bee houses do more harm than good.
You may have seen those cute bee homes in stores and thought it would be nice to put it out in the yard. (I’ve done the same.) Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. If we do choose to put a bee home out, we need to a) make sure they’re actually designed properly for the bees to use, and b) be willing to do a small amount of upkeep on the homes.
Otherwise they can easily become overrun with parasites, mold, bacteria, and viruses. Obviously we don’t want that for our bee friends! Read here if you want details about what to avoid when purchasing a bee home.
Here’s a quick summary from the article:
- Make sure tubes are blocked off by a wall in the back.
- Tubes should be at least 6 inches long to provide enough space for egg laying.
- Tubes, reeds, and blocks should be removable for cleaning.
- There needs to be a roof that overhangs the house to keep it dry.
- House should not hang on a hook or string, but should attach solidly to wall or surface.
- Nesting material should be able to absorb water. Wood is best (with the exception of bamboo). No metal, plastic, or glass.
- Anything too large will attract too many different species and provides an easy target for predators. Aim for a smaller home.
This is one bee home that comes recommended by beekeepclub.com and fits all the criteria. For more great options and info about caring for a bee home in your pollinator garden, this is a fantastic article.
2. Plant native flowers.
Native flowers are an essential element to a pollinator garden! In a pinch, any flowers will do. But native species are best because they naturally provide the best nutrition to native pollinators. Non-native plants that are flashier can attract pollinators away from native food sources, resulting in sub-par nutrition for pollinators.
Obviously this one is tricky because there’s a good chance that non-native plants were already part of your home’s landscape before you moved in. At the very least, we can add some native species to the mix when we create our pollinator garden. Do a quick search and see what flowers are native to your area!
We personally love Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They even have a page of pollinator friendly flower recommendations!
3. Create a watering station.
One thing that I didn’t realize was how difficult it can be for bees to find water! They’re not great swimmers and it can be hard for them to find a place to land for a drink without falling in and drowning. This is why another great addition to a pollinator garden is a little watering station!
Luckily, these are super easy to make! All you need is a shallow dish or tray (I used the bottom dish from a plant pot) and some rocks. (You can also use these flat-sided marbles if you want it to have a more decorative look.)
Take the dish outside and place it somewhere near your pollinator garden. Place several of the rocks or marbles in the dish to create little islands for the bees to land on. Fill it with water and it’s good to go. Make sure to keep it filled, especially on hot, sunny days!
4. Don’t use toxic pesticide sprays in your yard.
Toxic pesticide sprays are thought to be one of the major contributors to the decline in the bee population. Obviously, the majority of that is a result of its use on a much more massive scale with big agriculture. But every little bit helps!
If at all possible, avoid the toxic stuff in your yard and opt for a natural pest deterrent like this one that you can easily whip up at home with the help of the kids! Or, if you feel the need to spray “weeds” in your yard, try this homemade recipe.
At the end of the day, there are some basic things we can do and teach our children in order to help our pollinator friends!
Putting out a bee home can provide a safe space for them to lay their eggs and planting native flowers offers a nutritious food source. Setting out a water station and avoiding toxic sprays in your pollinator garden can also be super helpful!
Head on out with the kids and set up a pollinator garden of your own. Then have fun watching all the creatures that stop by to visit!
Looking for more ways to get outside in the garden with your kids? Try this rainbow nature craft!
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