Celebrate Pollinators with Kids

June is pollinator month in Colorado, and you can learn more about these critical critters (bees, hummingbirds, moths, butterflies, wasps, beetles, and more!) at Save Our Pollinators Day tomorrow from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM at the Jefferson County Courts Administration Building (100 Jefferson Parkway, Golden CO). 

A bee covered in pollen

A bee covered in pollen

When most people (especially children) think of bees, they think of honeybees. Did you know honeybees aren't native to North America? While a welcome immigrant to this continent (honeybees were brought over in the 1600's to make honey), we have hundreds of native species of bees and pollinators who also need our care and appreciation. As most bees are not aggressive (and only lady bees have stingers), it's important to teach our children to appreciate these garden friends, without whom we wouldn't have 70% of the produce we eat. If you're having a healthy snack right now, thank a bee!

We're serious - let's thank the bees! First, get to know some of the bees that are native to Colorado. These include: metallic green bees, sweat bees, cuckoo bees, wool carder bees, leaf cutter bees, mason bees, carpenter bees, squash bees, digger bees, bumblebees, mining bees, and so many more! Each prefers a different kind of nest, with some, like the squash bee, burrowing beneath squash blossoms, and others, like the leaf cutter bee, making nests out of cut-up leaves to secure in a safe spot, like a hole in a wood post. 

A shallow dish with rocks and water provides a safe place for bees and butterflies to land take a drink

A shallow dish with rocks and water provides a safe place for bees and butterflies to land take a drink

Only 12% of Colorado’s bees like to live in a colony in a hive (known as social bees). The majority of Colorado bees are solitary, and would love to find an inviting bee house waiting for them in your yard (or a bare patch of dirt to dig in, or an old log they can burrow into - there are so many options for providing bees with a safe habitat).

You can help thank bees and celebrate pollinators with your children by making your home and/or yard pollinator-friendly through habitats and flowers. A green lawn without flowers is like a desert to a bee - no food, water, or place to rest in sight. Here are a few ways you can make a flower buffet and rest stop for busy bees with your own little busy bees:

 

Plant these flowers as suggested by the Denver Botanic Gardens’ Sonya Anderson, via The Denver Post

Spring: Crocus, tulips, snowdrops, hellebores, lenten roses, poppies, crab apples, serviceberries, false forget-me-nots (also known as brunnera), creeping Oregon grape, sweet alyssum, snapdragons, blue flax, pasque flower, mock oranges, currents, gooseberries, columbines, and bachelor buttons.

Summer: Salvia, lavender, catmint, yarrow, yucca, bee balm, black-eyed Susans, penstemon, snapdragons, verbena, coreopsis, echinacea, milkweed, agastache, blanketflower, gayfeathers, rabbit brush, button bush, and herbs like fennel, dill, oregano, and parsley which support both the immature and adult forms of butterflies (let them go to flower for the nectar).

Fall: Asters. autumn sages, Mexican sages, and goldenrods.

While we love bees, let's not forget our other pollinating friends, like hummingbirds! There are 11 species of hummingbirds that arrive in Colorado in April and will stay till September, drinking nectar and pollinating our plants while they're here. Plants that hummingbirds love include:

  • Flowers with red blossoms and a tubular shape. But they also feed on pink, orange, peach and purple flowers.
  • Bee balm 
  • California fuchsia
  •  Lobelia
  • Catmint
  • Columbine
  • Delphinium 
  • Firecracker penstemon 
  • Garden phlox 
  • Honeysuckle 
  • Indian paintbrush 
  • Maltese cross 
  • Pineleaf penstemon 
  • Salvia
  • Spider flower
  • Sunset hyssop 

(via Beauty of Birds). Remember if you put out a feeder for hummingbirds to keep it disinfected and clean. Dirty hummingbird feeders can cause an infection in hummingbirds that leads to starvation and death. 

A bee house that can be purchased at a bee supply store or built at home. Each tunnel has cocoons for leaf cutter bee eggs. The Plexiglas cover lets children peak at the progress the momma bees have made in laying their eggs and taking care of their young! When these eggs hatch, they'll fly out into your garden looking for food from flowers. (Image via The Bees Waggle)

A bee house that can be purchased at a bee supply store or built at home. Each tunnel has cocoons for leaf cutter bee eggs. The Plexiglas cover lets children peak at the progress the momma bees have made in laying their eggs and taking care of their young! When these eggs hatch, they'll fly out into your garden looking for food from flowers. (Image via The Bees Waggle)