Providing Housing for our Native Bees

Bees and all other critters need the same things we do:  food, housing for the family, and a safe place to live. Urban landscapes are often missing housing, a critical component.  You may be surprised at where some of them raise their young!  Please view this short video with beautiful images of a few native bees and the information on nesting resources.

You can help ensure diversity here in our own neighborhood by providing housing for native bees.  Many of our bees are solitary and need hollow plant stems or dead wood; some need only  a small patch of bare ground.  Most of our urban landscapes do not provide housing for native bees, but they should and it is easy to do.  Please note that ground nesting bees should not be feared since they are docile and solitary.  Please do not think of them as you do a swarm of aggressive yellow jackets.  Ground nesting bees usually build nests in the spring.  Click the image for more information. 

Mining Bee Nest

Did you know that it is possible to do harm by providing a bee house?  If not properly designed and maintained, bee houses can spread disease or make the larvae more accessible to predators.  If properly designed and cared for, bee houses can be beneficial and they provide an opportunity to observe bees.   Please read this before deciding to provide a nest box.

Want to learn more about our native bees?  We are offering a hardcopy of this booklet about our native bees to five people who live in or near the Reedy Creek Watershed and have read the Nesting Resources link and viewed the video. Names will be drawn on May 16 . Use our contact form to get your name in the hat.  Comment BOOKLET.  (The booklet is also availabe for download if you prefer.)

This post is dedicated to the memory of our friend and one of the founders of Reedy Creek Coalition, Robin Ruth. Her dying wish was “save the bees”, but we think she meant much more than that. Bees were just her project at the time. Robin cared deeply for the natural world from the soil teeming with life to the tops of the trees and every living thing between. We plan a series of posts with information about bees, birds, butterflies and perhaps other critters that need our help.

WHAT DO BEES NEED?

Bees and all other critters need the same things we do:  food, housing for the family, and a safe place to live.  Bees require nectar for themselves, pollen for their offspring.  Providing food is one of the best things we can do.  Here are our suggestions for BEE friendly yards and neighborhoods.

  • Please plant native species.  (Avoid cultivars.  Some do not produce as much pollen or nectar as the native species;  others limit access to food due to changes in petal arrangement or shape of the flower. )
  • Provide a variety of species that will bloom at different times.
  • Plant in groups of the same species.  A group of plants will attract more pollinators than individual plants scattered through the garden.
  • If you have limited space, work with your neighbors to create pollinator habitat with a variety of species on your block.
  • Learn about how plants containing a group of pesticides known as Neonicotinoids will harm bees and other pollinators.

Pollinator Plants for the Mid Atlantic *

*Not all plants on this list are native to our area. An example is the purple coneflower.  Digital Atlas of Virginia Flora  is a good reference for those who want to use plants specific for Central Virginia.  Refer to the map for each species.

Neonicotinoides

We would like to help support your efforts to feed the bees by offering a clump of Physostegia virginiana (obedient plant) to five people who live in or near the Reedy Creek Watershed and have read the two links above. Names will be drawn on May 9. Use our contact form to get your name in the hat.  Comment OBEDIENT PLANT.

This post is dedicated to the memory of our friend and one of the founders of Reedy Creek Coalition, Robin Ruth. Her dying wish was “save the bees”, but we think she meant much more than that. Bees were just her project at the time. Robin cared deeply for the natural world from the soil teeming with life to the tops of the trees and every living thing between. We plan a series of posts with information about bees, birds, butterflies and perhaps other critters that need our help.

A GHOST IN THE MAKING

This video, A Ghost in the Making, is about a bumble bee that was once common and is now nearly extinct. That decline has occurred right here in Virginia.

What we do in our yards is now more important than ever for water quality AND for ecosystem health. Your yard can be and should become part of a network of native plants that support the bees, birds, butterflies and others that are part of a complex and resilient ecosystem.  It is our hope that our neighborhood becomes a place where all properties do something to support that network and make it a great place to live.

We would like to help support that effort by offering a clump of mountain mint, a great pollinator plant, to five people who live in or near the Reedy Creek Watershed and have viewed the video. Names will be drawn on April 30th.  Use our contact form to get your name in the hat. Comment MOUNTAIN MINT.

The images below show just a few of the insect species that visit mountain mint.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This post is dedicated to the memory of our friend and one of the founders of Reedy Creek Coalition, Robin Ruth. Her dying wish was “save the bees”, but we think she meant much more than that. Bees were just her project at the time. Robin cared deeply for the natural world from the soil teeming with life to the tops of the trees and every living thing between. We plan a series of posts with information about bees, birds, butterflies and perhaps other critters that need our help.

Crooked Branch Ravine Park – A Place Worth Protecting

Looks like this Sunday will be another unseasonably lovely day and a good day for cutting English ivy at the base of trees so that the vines above will die.  This is beneficial to the tree and prevents spread of the seed to other places.  This plant only forms flower, fruit and seed after climbing a vertical surface.   Birds then spread the seed to other sites.  You could prevent the sprouting of hundreds of new plants in other places with a few clips of your pruners!

We will even take a break for a little winter tree ID walk if you are interested.

  • Sunday,  March 1 from 1 – 3 p.m.
  • If you can only stay an hour, that’s OK. Every hour counts.
  • Bring gloves, hand clippers & a small saw if you have one. An old screwdriver is  sometimes helpful for removing ivy from trees; we will show you how.
  • Bring your own water bottle.

Map to meeting site

drawing, robin

Water Quality Monitoring

Reedy Creek Coalition is looking for a few more volunteers to join our water quality monitoring team.  Sample collection occurs once a month and takes about two hours; on the job training is provided.  If you are interested in helping or if you have questions please contact us at reedycreekcoalition@gmail.com .

Our monitoring activities can make a difference right here in our own neighborhood.   Back in 2012 during our travels along the stream we found what appeared to be a potential hot spot for E. coli; our sample collection confirmed these suspicions.  We contacted Richmond’s Department of Public Utilities who investigated, found and repaired a sewer leak.  Click here for that story.

This is Citizen Science at its best!  Please join us.

Invasive Plant Removal: Why does your local watershed group think this is important?

Crooked Branch Ravine Park acts like a sponge, soaking up rain water and keeping it where it falls.  It is also home to many native plants that support wildlife, including warblers and other song birds on their long migrations.

CBR map
The circle indicates the approximate location of Crooked Branch Ravine Park.

Protecting areas like this will help keep the rain where it falls and help improve water quality; this need is great in urban areas with lots of impervious surface.   Unfortunately, this little park has many non-native, invasive plants and over time they will threaten the tree canopy (natures’ best invention for capturing rain water).  And, as native species are lost so is the diversity that supports wildlife.

This is important work. We would appreciate your help.

  • Sunday,  September 8 from 1 – 3 p.m.  or as long as you can stay.
  • Bring gloves and hand clippers.  An old screwdriver is sometimes helpful for removing ivy from trees; we will show you how.
  • Please bring your own water.
  • Bring a friend!

Map to meeting site

Happy Trails

Imagine having thousands of visitors in your yard every year. The
wear and tear on your lawn and garden would be substantial. Grass
would be trampled, compacted beyond repair with paths worn into ruts
that pool with water when it rains. Soon your visitors, in avoiding these
areas, would widen the bare spots. That’s what is happening in our
James River Park System and in our backyard, Forest Hill Park. The
parks see thousands of visitors a year, millions in James River Park.
We hike, jog, bike and walk our dogs into the parks in all types of
weather. A frequent visitor to the parks may notice the muddy ruts in
the trails that seem to be getting bigger and taking longer to dry. This
happens when trails erode below the soil surface and the water has
nowhere to go. The muddy areas lead to another problem that’s
created when trail users dodge the mud and go off of the trail, trail
widening.

Why does erosion matter and trail widening matter?

  • Safety!  Rutted, uneven surfaces, exposed rocks and plant roots
    are a tripping hazard for hikers and joggers.
  • Environmental impact! Eroded soil can make its way into streams
    and eventually the river, increasing water turbidity and sediment
    buildup. This can have a negative impact on aquatic organisms and
    the overall health of the streams and rivers.Invasive species move into disturbed areas and compete with native species for resources to the detriment of micro and macroecosystems that depend on each other to flourish.  Invasive species seeds can be introduced to new areas from the mud in shoe or bike treads.
  • Aesthetics!  Rutted trails and bare spots on hillsides are ugly, show
    lack of care and lessen the quality of recreational experience.

What can we as park users and lovers do?

  • MOST IMPORTANTLY Stay off the trails when it has rained in the last
    24 hours. Use an alternative hard surface trail until the trails have
    dried.  *Trail conditions for James River Park as well as trail rules can be found here.  https://jamesriverpark.org/visit-the-park/trails-overview/
  • Please use ONLY existing trails DoNOT create new ones. The parks
    are home to many species of plants that can be damaged or killed
    when trampled.
  • When hiking, walk single file rather than side by side.

So, let’s work together and use our parks responsibly and preserve
their natural beauty for generations to come.

For more information:
pwrc.usgs.gov. Assessing and Understanding Trail Degradation:
Results from Big South Fork National River and Recreational Area
imba.com

https://www.americantrails.org/resources/studies-weigh-mountain-biking-hiking-impacts

Twitter info: Trail conditions @RVATrailReport