Summer has bee-come fall, a most glorious and invigorating season, with brilliant colors, cooler temps and an underlying urgency to get things done. But yet, as nights become longer, we (hopefully) are finding time for a little more sleep and rest. Fall also brings a feeling of melancholy, as we watch our gardens wane, and notice bees and butterflies disappearing from the landscape — they also know it’s time to sleep and rest!
Many beneficial insects, so critical for the food on our table and the natural world around us, live only weeks in the adult stage, the stage we humans most easily recognize and interact with. Although some species hibernate in the adult stage, many species overwinter as eggs, pupae or chrysalises. These fragile life forms must make it through the Winter to be ready to emerge in spring to begin anew the important work of that insect species. If you knew where to look, you would find them in the soil, in hollow plant stalks, attached to leaves and twigs, or nestled under fallen leaves — hidden and safe during the coldest season.
Except. Fall also seems to be time to "clean up" gardens and yards, a time of leaf blowers and rakes and composting. And all of a sudden these invisible but oh-so-invaluable bits of life are blown or swept away, or stuffed into bags or bins.
As strange as it may seem, it’s important to NOT clean up our gardens in the fall. NOT cleaning up the garden helps ensure native bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, flies such as hoverflies, and other beneficial insects have a place to nest and overwinter. NOT cleaning up your garden means there will be plenty of fallen leaves, standing plant stalks, shrubby plants and grasses, and patches of soil in which these insects can find a protected place to hide and transform.
Where else would they go?
I agree with Justin Wheeler of The Xerces Society, who writes: "You gave them flowers and a place to nest. You tended your garden and avoided pesticides. Don’t carry all of that hard work out to the curb. Simply put, when we treat leaves like trash, we’re tossing out the beautiful moths and butterflies that we’ll surely miss and work so very hard to attract."
Grove to get garden
I am happy to report that a corner on the grounds of The Grove on East Main Street in Ashland will soon bee-come a pollinator garden! The Bee City USA Ashland team, a subcommittee under Ashland Parks & Recreation, is finalizing the design and selecting plants and, with the help of the wonderful Parks & Rec staff, plans to have a "planting party" during the week of Nov. 6.
Want to get involved? Send me an email at KristinaBCUAshland@gmail.com.
Another Bee City (not)
I had planned to include a congratulatory note to the city of Jacksonville, on the assumption that their City Council would vote on Oct. 17 to bee-come the fifth Bee City USA in the Rogue Valley. But, even with a room full of pollinator supporters, sponsorship from over 30 local businesses, and a team bringing nearly $2,000 to the table, Jacksonville did not join Talent, Ashland, Phoenix and Gold Hill in passing a resolution in support of the insects on which our lives depend. The councilors who voted no expressed concerns over expenses and potential legal ramifications.
However, Jacksonville clearly benefits from the critical role pollinators play in our ecosystems. Consider the beautiful Jacksonville Arboretum, filled with flowers, shrubs and trees that depend on pollinators to reproduce. And pollinators are an integral component of the city’s lovely gardens, as well as the crops produced by local farms and orchards sold every Sunday at the Jacksonville Growers Market.
One might ask, why bee-come a Bee City USA? Created in 2012 and now with over 60 affiliate cities nationwide, Bee City USA helps municipalities get involved in the world-wide movement to save our pollinators. “Becoming (a Bee City USA) affiliate institutionalizes the local government and community’s commitment to pollinator conservation and provides support for widespread collaboration to establish and maintain healthy pollinator habitat on public and private land.” Learn more at beecityusa.org.
My hope is that there will be a Bee City USA Jacksonville yet.
— Kristina Lefever is a member of Pollinator Project Rogue Valley, Bee City USA Ashland, and the Jackson County Master Gardener Association. The Pollinator Connection appears quarterly.