Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wild Bees, Bumble Bees, Hedgehogs - Gardeners' sustainable living project

This post is my contribution to Jan's sustainable living project over at Thanks for Today. She has a great thing going, gathering blog posts and other sources on how gardeners all over the world are trying in their own small way to make the earth a more livable place. Be sure to take a look at her project - and not *just* because there are great garden-related prizes to win.

I guess like many gardeners I, too, am trying to inflict as little damage as possible on the other inhabitants of my garden. This means not using pesticides, and trying to provide a friendly environment for creatures that have a hard time in our densely populated, highly industrialized area.

In addition to our birdhouse, which is occupied each spring by a pair of blue tits, I've tried to attract wild bees, bumble bees, and hedgehogs, but so far have only been successful with the wild bees.

Putting up "wild bee hotels" has been a "wild" success. Almost before we were finished mounting them on our garden cottage, various types of solitary wild bees started to inhabit the hotels, both of which I purchased from workshops which employ the handicapped. Up till now I think I've identified the Osmia bicornis or horned bee (rote Mauerbiene in German). There are some other larger, black species I cannot identify. Within days all the holes in the hotels were occupied and many of them sealed shut. It's a delight to watch the bees and listen to them hum, and they completely ignore us humans. These bees are important pollinators for many native plants and have trouble finding the kind of rotting wood they prefer for nesting in our well-kept parks and forests. The hotels should be mounted facing south, and protected if possible from the rain by a roof.


Of course it's also possible to construct such hotels yourself, simply by drilling holes of various sizes (3-5mm in diameter) into a piece of hardwood about 10 cm thick. You can also bundle up hollow reeds, for example from dried Miscanthus grass. The hotel on the right in the above picture also is intended to attract ladybugs, earwigs and butterflies, but I don't know yet if this will work. The bees certainly went for both hotels.


Bumble bee house: Very early each spring our garden is visited by plenty of bumble bees, and I very much wanted to also offer them a place to live. So I purchased a bumble bee house designed to meet these creatures' needs. So far no luck, though. I've tried putting it in various places, including sunken into the ground up to the opening, at the time of year when the queen bumble bees are looking for an abode. You can just see the house at the back right of this picture, under the blackberries and behind the Lenten roses. I really took the photo to show off the Lenten roses.


Hedgehog shelter: Hoping to attract hedgehogs as natural predators for my slugs and also because they are just so adorable, we built a hedgehog shelter in a quiet corner of the garden. At the base of the shelter is a wicker construction covered first with a tarp to keep it dry, and then with earth, branches and twigs.On the floor we put soft straw and dry leaves.


This was a project that even got my teenage daughter into the garden. Although the shelter is on the border to the nature preserve right outside our garden, to date no hedgehogs have taken up residence. Neighbors have told me that there were more hedgehogs in the allotment colony before the very effective fence was put up around the perimeter in order to keep out rabbits and deer. We're still hoping.

15 comments:

  1. Wonderful! I'm impressed how fast your bee hotel filled up! We have lots of bumbles here too, although a number of ours will actually build underground nests. Sadly, no hedgehogs here. I miss them. Used to see them all the time in my garden in England. Could use a few here for slug control lately!

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  2. Love your bee hotels... and that hedgehog house is adorable.

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  3. We popped up a homemade bee hotel last year but haven't seen any reidents yet. We also have a home made hedgehog house and see hedgehogs about mosts years. At the moment we are busy watching a little blue tit build its nest in one of our boxes that has a web cam attached.

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  4. Top notch bee and critter accommodations there, Barbara! Functional AND delightful to the eye. Your gardens will be a-buzz in no time. Too bad about the fence. Any breach might let in a hedgehog, yes. But more likely a pesky rabbit (or seven). LOL Perhaps you could bring in a hedgehog from outside that needs to be relocated?

    Lovely pics of the Lenten rose - and the equally lovely garden assistant at the hedgehog hut. Fair weather and good gardening! :-D

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  5. Never heard of bee houses before--they're so cute, thanks for sharing!

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  6. Hi Barbara, I love all these things you're doing around your garden! It's exciting to read about how quickly your bee hotels filled up. I guess you've had to post a 'No Vacancy' sign at this point! Perhaps it's time to add another hotel to the property;) Good luck with the bumblebee house. It is attractive and a cool addition to your garden decor, whether the bumbles choose to move in or not;-) Love your Hellebore plant! They've become one of my favorites now, too. Your daughter is adorable. I hope you get a hedgehog visitor soon. I like the idea of relocating a needy one;-) Thanks for linking to my sustainable living project/giveaway. I'm so happy you did! Good luck! Jan

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  7. What wonderful bee hotels.Your Hellebore is so big and beautiful.I hope your get a resident for your hedgehog abode.

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  8. Also ein Insektenhotel haben wir noch nicht im Garten, aber vielleicht wäre es gar nicht so eine schlechte Idee.

    lg kathrin

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  9. Barbara, Your bee hotels are charming. This is clearly another project I need to add to my list. You may not have hedgehogs (yet?), but you sure do have beautiful flowers in bloom. Love the cheery forsythia. -Jean

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  10. Love your bee hotels, you certainly won't be short of pollinators this year. We don't see our hedgehog very often but we know he is around (or is it a she?) by the droppings we find all over the garden !!! We don't have a house for it but I'm sure it takes advantage of the wilder corners of the garden where there are log piles and stacks of leaves waiting to rot down.It's lovely sharing your garden with the wildlife, isn't it?!

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  11. Die Geschichte des nachhaltigen Gärtnerns begann bei mir bereits in den Achtzigern als ich diverse Fortbildungen zur Umwelterziehung in der Schule gemacht hatte. ( im Berliner Ökowerk, das bereits 25 Jahre alt ist) Da hatte ich noch gar keinen eigenen Garten...Ich erinnere mich noch gut dran, wie wir Insektenhotels mit Lehmwänden gebaut haben. Momentan habe ich im eigenen Garten nichts dergleichen, schön, dass ich daran erinnert werde, da mal wieder etwas zu unternehmen. Andererseits lebe ich -noch- in einem Umfeld, wo Insekten natürliche Möglichkeiten zur Brut finden, allerdings befürchte ich, dass auch hier im Berliner Stadtrandgebiet die Verstädterung rasant vorwärts schreitet und alles zubetoniert, asphaltiert, wärmegedämmt, abgedichtet ...wird. Was bringen dann ein paar Insektenhotels und Igelvillen? Vielleicht bin ich ja zu negativ?
    LG
    Sisah

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  12. Dear Barbara, Your bee hotels are incredible ... you have inspired me! I hope you attract a hedgehog to that cute little house soon. I miss hedgehogs so much. We always had them in our garden in England, but there are none in USA. P x

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  13. Babara, I think your bee hotel is a great idea. Frankly speaking, I am scared of bees nest in my property, scared of their sting due to a childhood encounter. I also make my garden a hotel for wildlife. I still remember your eco-friendly portable WC. Keep up the good work!

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  14. Liebe Barbara, vielen Dank für Deinen netten Kommentar zu meinem Bienenhotel. Vogelhäuser in diesem Stil habe ich noch nicht gemacht - kann aber noch kommen;-)) Eure Insekttenhotels sehen aber auch wunderschön aus! Und erst das Igelhaus - super! Sicher ist der Zaun schuld, wenn kein Igel in diese schöne Herberge eingezogen ist. Vor einer Woche war ich übrigens in Mannheim und habe das Drama mit den Platanen auf dem Friedrichsring gesehen. Ich musste fast heulen, wenn ich nicht durch Deinen post vor einem Jahr vorgewarnt gewesen wäre. Als kleines Trostpflaster wurde ich aber an diesem Tag durch eine wunderbare Blütenfülle der Tulpen im Luisenpark entschädigt. Dort gibt sich die Stadt ja wirklich große Mühe die Besucher zu verwöhnen. Liebe Barbara, nun wünsche ich Dir noch eine herrliche Woche, für den Garten mal ein bischen Regen und viele Geschenke vom Osterhasen! Liebe Grüße von Luzia.

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  15. The other day, I was looking out of an upstairs window, down onto the garden, when I saw what I thought was a big black butterfly flitting about all over the place. When it settled, even from that distance I could see it was a bumblebee.

    I'm really excited because, today, I came across hoverfly larvae in my garden. Although I have often seen hoverflies themselves, this is the first time I have knowingly seen the larvae. I hope you don't mind if I leave a link.

    http://esthersgardennotes.blogspot.com/2011/04/hoverfly-larva.html

    Esther

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