Natural Solutions for Spring: The Birds and Bees
Whether you live in a house with a yard, an apartment or a condo, you can find ways to support the species that share our spaces in the spring and summer. Here are some of the easiest ways to support urban biodiversity:
- Lights out: Residences and low profile buildings pose a threat to migrating birds who travel at night (like songbirds), so turn off all non-essential lights (especially between 11pm and 6am) to help birds migrating north from colliding with buildings.
- Mark it: Daytime window strikes are also a problem. If your windows reflect vegetation, birds may try to fly through them. You can mark your windows with soap or tempera paint, and there are many commercial products on the market. Ensure decals or markings are vertical in nature as horizontal markings may be perceived as branches.
- Leave it alone: Got an active nest in your yard? Leave it alone. Under the International Migratory Bird Act, it’s prohibited to interfere with the nest or eggs of most migratory species. Apart from the legal issue, birds such as robins would likely abandon a nest that was moved. Incubation periods are pretty short though, so it won’t be long before the babies leave the nest.
- When it’s 10 degrees, you can wake the bees: If possible, avoid yard cleanup until it is consistently 10 degrees above zero. Mulch, dead leaves, etc provide wintering opportunities for bees and other beneficial insects so waiting until it’s warm enough for them to emerge naturally will keep them safe.
- Dandelions - a bee’s best friend: these “weeds” represent one of the earliest and most significant sources of pollen for bees, as they bloom at a time when queens are feeding in order to begin laying eggs. So if possible, leave some dandelions for the bees.
- Native plants for native bees. Southern Alberta is home to a variety of bees and one of the best ways to support them is with native plants such as willow, milkvetch, cane raspberries and clover.
- Water is a precious resource: Whether you plant in containers on a balcony, participate in a community garden or take immense pride in your yard, consider plants that have lower water requirements and that are conditioned to our dry, high altitude climate. There are many online resources that will help you determine what is geographically appropriate - just remember that Calgary is considered Zone 4a.
- Avoid watering in the heat of the day: The water just evaporates and burns your lawn/plants. Best times to water are before 10am and after 4pm. If slugs are an issue for you, only water in the morning. Watering in the cool evening traps moisture and creates a perfect habitat for slugs.
- Leave water out for birds and bees: Remember to clean any dishes or trays to reduce chances for parasites and disease. If cats are an issue in your neighborhood, keep the water 3 to 4 feet off the ground. Bees can’t swim so if your intention is to provide them some water, be sure to include rocks, marbles or sticks that they may reach the water without falling in.
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