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The busy buzz of pollinating bees is a sound most of us affiliate with summer time. If you reside in temperate areas of Australia, chances are you’ll begin to discover fewer bugs because the climate will get colder. Across many of the continent, nonetheless, some flower-visiting bugs are lively all 12 months spherical – and a few are extra frequent in cooler months.
Planting winter-blooming flowers is a good way to help useful backyard bugs. Now is the right time to begin planning your pollinator-friendly winter backyard.
Flowers are an essential supply of meals for bugs akin to bees, butterflies, wasps and hoverflies. Sugary nectar is a crucial supply of carbohydrates, whereas pollen packs a strong protein punch.
Planting flowers additionally attracts and sustains predatory bugs. This can assist maintain pest species beneath management, which means much less want for pesticides.
Know your winter-active bugs
First, let’s take a look at which pollinators and useful predators you possibly can anticipate in your backyard in winter. This information, in addition to the under gardening ideas, applies primarily to temperate areas of Australia the place temperatures grow to be cool over winter.
The temperate area contains the areas proven in blue under. It contains the coastal rim that curves from inland of Brisbane all the way down to Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide, in addition to Tasmania and the southwest tip of Western Australia.
One of the commonest pollinators is the Western honeybee (Apis mellifera). This launched species developed in cooler areas of the world and tends to be extra cold-tolerant than most native bees. They’ll begin to go away the hive when the temperature rises above 13?, however are most lively above 19?.
Most native Australian bees desire hotter temperatures. But a number of species, akin to reed bees (Exonerua) and the sugarbag bee (Tetragonula carbonaria), make an look on hotter winter days when the temperatures attain the mid- to excessive teenagers (though the sugar bag bee is often not discovered south of Sydney).
Flies are typically comparatively tolerant of cooler temperatures, and are the celebrities of winter pollination. Hoverflies (Syrphidae), particularly, are backyard superheroes.
Adult hoverflies feed on nectar and pollen and might pollinate a variety of crops. As a bonus, the maggot-like larvae of some hoverfly species are voracious predators, fortunately consuming soft-bodied pests akin to aphids.
Hoverflies are sometimes mistaken for bees or wasps due to their related yellow and black patterning. The resemblance will not be unintended; hoverflies have developed to mimic the looks of stinging wasps and bees. Don’t allow them to idiot you – hoverflies can not sting and are usually innocent.
Some hoverfly species lay their eggs in stagnant water. The ensuing larvae are recognized by the unflattering title “rat-tailed maggots” as a result of they breathe underwater by an extended, skinny siphon that resembles a tail. Don’t fear for those who discover these alien-looking critters swimming in your pond or beneath potted crops – the adults are flower-loving vegetarians that may assist with pollination.
Other flies akin to blowflies (Calliphoridae) are additionally lively by the cooler months. Although blowflies are sometimes thought of pests, they play an essential position within the pollination of some fruits together with avocado and mango, in addition to seed manufacturing for carrot, celery and cauliflower.
With the correct planting, it’s also possible to entice predators akin to parasitoid wasps, lacewings and ladybird beetles. These bugs principally feed on different bugs, however dwell longer and produce extra offspring once they have entry to a candy sip of nectar.
So now we’ve met our winter pollinators and predators, learn on for 3 ways to help them in your backyard.
1. Plant numerous flowers
The best – and most stunning – technique to help winter bugs is to plant numerous vibrant winter-blooming flowers. Winter-loving brassicas akin to broccoli, bok choi and mustard greens produce flowers which are a favorite meals of many bugs. Letting a number of of those veggies go to flower will assist help your native useful bugs.
Salvias akin to chia (Salvia hispanica) and basils akin to candy basil (Ocimum basilicum) will entice and help quite a lot of flower-visiting bugs.
2. Create selection
When planning your winter backyard, goal for quite a lot of colors, shapes and blooming occasions. Ideally, one thing needs to be in bloom all 12 months spherical. Try to incorporate as many native species as attainable. Different winter-active bugs have completely different preferences, so quite a lot of flower varieties can make sure you cater to a wider vary of bugs.
For instance, a winter survey of group gardens in Sydney discovered honeybees had been most ample on candy basil, lavender (Lavendula) and borage (Borago officinalis), whereas hoverflies (Melangyna_sp) most well-liked Brassica rapa, Veronica persica and Stellaria media.
The variations in flower preferences seemingly mirror variations within the form and size of insect mouth elements. Honeybees have comparatively lengthy tongues that may entry nectar in tube-shaped flowers (akin to basil and lavender).
Hoverflies, with their shorter tongues, have a neater time accessing nectar and pollen from shallower, daisy-like flowers. By planting quite a lot of flower shapes, you can also make positive no insect misses out.
3. Avoid pesticides
Even natural or so-called “eco-friendly” pesticides could hurt useful bugs. Instead of pesticides, strive low-impact choices akin to eradicating caterpillars by hand, or utilizing a water spray to take away aphids.
If you’re feeling you need to use pesticides, learn the label fastidiously and select selective baits and sprays, which goal one sort of insect, over broad-spectrum sprays (akin to pyrethrins, pyrethroids and neonicotinoids) which kill bugs indiscriminately. Keep in thoughts that in some instances, utilizing pesticides can truly make your pest issues worse by killing beneficial predatory insects.
Planting a backyard for winter-active bugs is a superb technique to help native wildlife. Your backyard will thrive on account of the free pollination and pest management companies these useful bugs present.
So get planting, and benefit from the delight of a buzzing backyard filled with useful bugs.
Cover picture by Aaron Burden.