I’ve noticed that I’m spending a lot more time tending to my garden beds lately since I’m home all the time right now. I was texting a friend the other day that I don’t have any weeds in my garden right now because I check it about three times a day. I was kidding when I wrote it, but then I realized it wasn’t actually a joke.
One of the biggest pests I’ve had this year is caterpillars. I have a love/hate relationship with caterpillars. I like the winged creatures that they become. Even some of the moths are kinda cool to look at. But the caterpillars in my garden are very destructive if I or some predator doesn’t find them quickly. I had a big green caterpillar nearly defoliate one of my blueberry bushes before I even knew what was happening.
One of the other issues with gardening in modern times is attracting pollinators. Bee habitats are quickly being destroyed by “progress” as we humans clear more and more land for houses and businesses.
The most common types of bees that many people think of are honeybees and bumble bees. Most of these varieties live in colonies in hundreds or thousands and need a large area devoted to their homes. I don’t mind having a few of those fly into my yard to pollinate my garden, but I don’t really want to share my living space with several thousand bees.
Here in Texas, there are several types of native bees species that don’t live in colonies at all. They are solitary bees that use individual nests to grow their larvae. Many of these bees are also seeing their habitats diminish. Often they don’t need anything more that an appropriately sized hole in a good location in which to place their larvae.
Several years ago I heard about using bee boxes to attract these types of bees to your yard. The Houston Zoo has them all over to educate people about the problem and to help them pollinate all of the plants they have on site. There are several do-it-yourself guides online for making bee boxes, but the problem I was having was finding the appropriate type of wood block to use. All of the “Big Box” home improvement stores only sell pressure treated wood blocks or cedar wood blocks. Neither of these can be used. The chemicals in pressure treated wood would kill the bees, and cedar wood discourages many types of bugs because of the smell. I also didn’t want to get a regular non-treated piece of wood for fear that it would just rot in a few months.
So I didn’t have a bee box…until I found a pre-made bee box at Lowes. It was perfect for our little yard.
Within days of hanging it on the back fence, some of the holes were already filled in. I may never even see what comes out of them, but at least I know this works.
A few days ago, I noticed a funny looking red and black striped bee making a nest. My daughter corrected me right away and let me know in no uncertain terms that it wasn’t a bee. It’s a wasp. She’s deathly afraid of wasps, so she’s very aware of these types of things. Turns out she was right. It was a mason wasp.
At first, I was a little disappointed when I found this out. Wasps are not great pollinators because they don’t have enough hair on their legs and bodies. But then I started reading up on mason wasps more. They paralyze caterpillars, take them to their nests, and leave them as food for their larvae to feed on while they grow. Kinda gross, but I guess I will see some kind of benefit here after all.