Learn how you can help pollinators this cold, Omaha winter
From early spring to late fall, Paradise Lawns offers the Omaha metro area organic lawn care solutions that are safe for kids, pets and the environment. This includes more “natural” Omaha organic lawn care pollinators like bees and butterflies. Surprisingly, many bees and butterflies don’t migrate south for the winter. So where do they go and how can you help them make it safely to spring?
The Importance of “Natural” Omaha Organic Lawn Care Pollinators
The USDA states that pollinators are responsible for assisting over 80% of the world’s flowering plants to reproduce. Quite frankly, without pollinators we wouldn’t be able to survive. Most fruits and grain crops, as well as flowering plants, rely on pollination. Even though we don’t consume flowering plants, we benefit from their ability to clean the air, filter our water, and prevent soil erosion. A visit to the US Forest Service website lists many animals and insects that act as pollinators, but today we will look at two – bees and butterflies.
Chances are good that you have heard about global concerns over decreasing bee populations. Once thought of as a nuisance, bees are starting to be recognized for their importance with pollination. For many in the Omaha metro, seeing them marks the beginning of spring when the first flowers are in bloom. Or the swarms of bees, frantically storing up their winter food supplies in the last days of fall. We don’t usually think too much about them in between fall and spring. Until now.
Bumblebees are extremely efficient pollinators. The lifecycle of a bumblebee is a bit grim. Freezing temperatures result in all but the queen dying. The queen is left on her own to hibernate through the winter – often in an underground shelter. In the spring, she sets out to find a suitable spot to start a new colony and begins to lay eggs. The eggs hatch and a new colony is created. The summer is spent working, pollinating and thriving. As fall nears once again, the queen allows some of her eggs to become future queen bees and some to become males for mating purposes. These new queen bees will be the ones to hibernate through the next winter and start their own colonies in the spring. It is common for bumblebees to seek out old mouse or bird nests to start their post winter colony. You can help by leaving abandoned nests in trees for them to move into once the temperature warms.
When people think of bees, they think of the delicious honey produced by honeybees. Another important group of pollinators, honeybees endure the cold temperatures as a colony in their beehive. They encompass the queen and provide warmth by fluttering their wings (aka shivering). Like any well-run team, they take turns moving from the outer edges where it is coldest to the inner circle where they can enjoy the warmth. The closeness of the bees, plus their movement and the insulation of the hive keep the queen’s environment at a comfortable 80-degrees. If you should come across a beehive in the winter, leave it alone because there could be a colony inside. When outside temperatures reach approximately 50-degrees, they will emerge from the colony to seek out early blooming flowers.
To most, the majestic Monarch butterflies and their massive migration are the first thing that comes to mind when asked about butterflies in the winter. However, many butterflies and moths don’t migrate. Instead, they stick around for the winter in various stages.
A look at the lifecycle of a butterfly shows that there are several different stages that they could be in during the winter depending on their species. Some lay eggs in late fall at the base or underside of a plant. This provides a food source when it hatches in the spring. Others develop into caterpillars or form a chrysalis in the fall. The chrysalis provides protection from the cold and can often be found attached to the underside of a plant’s leaves. The plant provides an additional barrier from wind and snow. When in caterpillar form, it will wait out the season under rocks, in leaf and grass piles or even underground.
Some butterflies spend the winter in their adult state. They seek out man-made structures like sheds or cellars to hibernate in the Midwest. Natural possibilities include holes in trees or behind loose bark. If you come across a butterfly in your Omaha cellar or shed during the winter, please leave it alone. If you put it outside it will not be able to survive the cold temperatures and will die. Check out this website to learn more about the different butterfly species that winter as adults.
How you can help
Knowledge is the key. Now that you know there are pollinators riding out the cold, Omaha winter days with you, it is important that you help them make it to spring. During freezing temperatures, it is best to leave beehives and other possible hibernating spots alone so as not to disturb the inhabitants.
You can actively help by planting winter blooming flowers right here in Omaha. Borders and clusters are ideal because they will provide more flowers than a solitary plant, but anything is helpful. Crocus, Snowdrop and Hyacinth bloom between January and March. Primrose, Rosemary and Cornflower are also early blooming flowers that will give bees and butterflies just coming out of hibernation much-needed fuel. If your property has room, you may even consider early blooming fruit trees such as cherry, apple or plum trees. Depending on the temperatures and the variety of trees, some start to bloom as early as February in the right conditions.
Finally, continue to use organic and non-toxic lawn care products, like the ones used by Omaha’s Paradise Lawns and promote organic lawn care maintenance to your Omaha area neighbors. As a BeeSafe Certified Organic Lawn Care Applicator, Paradise Lawns takes pride in offering our customers organic lawn care solutions that are free from chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This non-toxic approach gives you peace of mind that your lawn can look great without being detrimental to people, pets and pollinators. Call us today at 402-612-1527 to design your spring lawn care plan or click to learn about our Referral Rewards Program. Spread the word about Omaha organic lawn care benefits and help pollinators thrive.