If you’ve attended a Wildlife Garden hummingbird seminar, or taken our on-line hummingbird quiz, you’ve been asked about hummingbird diet. While everyone knows that hummingbirds are attracted to flowers and nectar feeders which are needed to power their high energy activity levels, many Wildlife Garden customers have been surprised to learn that protein, in the form of gnats, flies, and other “bugs”, is also a major component of hummingbird diet, especially for fast growing hummingbird nestlings. This fact, naturally, leads to the question, “If we only supply hummingbirds with nectar feeders, are we missing out on opportunities to attract hummingbirds with protein, and how would we do that?” The answer, of course, has always been, “Yes,” but, there has never been a product designed for this purpose–until this year.
Simply fill this hummingbird insect feeder with ripe fruit, and let nature take its course. Fruit flies will come–and so will the hummers–without the necessity of frequent cleaning and refilling a nectar feeder.
Now that we have covered birds and bugs, what about bees? Like hummingbirds, bees gather nectar from flowers and are quite important as pollinators for fruit trees and other commercially important plants as well as native plant species. So, while bees at a hummingbird feeder are to be avoided, bees in your garden can be quite beneficial.
Unfortunately, the most common pollinating bee, the honey bee, has suffered population declines for a number of reasons over the last few decades. Mason bees, a group of stingless bees, including more than 100 native North American species, are also known as very effective pollinators for spring and early summer blooming plants. Unlike honey bees that live in a hive with thousands of worker bees and a single queen, female mason bees are solitary, living in a nest that contains individual cells each containing a single egg. Once the eggs are laid, the female fills each cell with pollen and nectar, providing food for the next generation of mason bees. Typically, mason bees produce only a single generation each year.
While each species of mason bee is unique, many of these species can be attracted to artificial “bee houses” for nesting. These houses typically are constructed of wood and have a number of holes or “nesting tubes” with the female laying a single egg in each tube. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae consume the pollen and nectar deposited in each tube, then enter a dormant state, pupate, and eventually emerge as adult bees, usually in the fall. Interestingly, in our area, these newly emerged adults, continue to reside in their own nesting tube over winter, before becoming active pollinators the next spring.
Want to try a protein feeder for your hummingbirds or a mason bee house for yourself? Stop in at the Wildlife Garden, or follow the link to the Nature Reserve for more information about mason bees.