HAP Hive is a pollinator protection initiative created by Humane Action Pittsburgh. Our goal is to educate citizens, create homes for bees, butterflies, birds and other pollinators, and encourage others to foster a safe environment for them.
Pollinators are crucial to life on Earth because they allow plants to reproduce through pollination. If there are no pollinators, then we lose certain flowers, plants, and foods. Without them, our ecosystem is in trouble.
HAP’s three core actions to save pollinators are:
- Reduce Use of Chemical Pesticides
It is imperative to limit or cease the use of business and home chemical pesticides. Instead, choose natural deterrents, such as a mixture of soap, peppermint oil, and water. Call or email your local officials to encourage them to stop the use of pesticides on public lands. Our goal is to see the City of Pittsburgh eliminate its use of chemical pesticides.
- Increase Natural Habitat and Food Sources with Pollinator Gardens
You can help bees in your own backyard. Flowers are a bee’s food source, so building a garden for bees with no chemical pesticides will provide a pollination sanctuary and continual meals for your neighborhood bees. You can even contact your local office and inquire about building a neighborhood pollinator garden.
- Install Bee Hotels
Bee hotels are a small structure that provides a place for solitary bees to shelter and rest. Our goal is to produce and install bee hotels to encourage settlement and increase the bee population throughout Western PA where natural habitats have been destroyed.
These hotels are made from organic materials and can be easily made at home. The key items you need are a cylindrical container, hollow reeds, and some twine. You’ll want to cut the reeds to match the length of the container and fill the container with as many reeds as you can. The twine can be attached to the container and hung. Hang it in a sunny location that won’t receive heavy rain. For more information and a video tutorial, visit here.
Imagine for a moment…
Imagine for a moment that you are walking on a path through a garden on a spring morning. On both sides of the path, colorful flowers are raising their heads to drink in the sunlight. That picture seems peaceful, but in reality, this garden is bustling and noisy. Bees are zipping between flowers and birds are singing excitedly in the tree canopy nearby. Caterpillars are moving to life on the leaves and the massive network of roots under your feet are awake and doling out nutrients. The gears that make this garden tick, the pollinators, are filling it with life and hard work.
It’s hardly a secret that pollinators are important to ecosystems, but why? Over 80% of the world’s flowering plants require a pollinator to reproduce, and approximately one out of every three bites of our food is created with their friendly help. Their ecological contributions, including healthier soil and cleaner water, are worth billions of dollars. But the pollinators of our world are facing increasing challenges, from habitat loss to pesticides. Manicured lawns are green spaces that aren’t really “green”—most of these lawns are not pollinator-friendly and do not support our vital insect infrastructure. Thankfully, you can make a difference by giving your yard a makeover, and transforming your lawn into a beautiful pollinator haven is not as difficult as it sounds.
Tips for creating a pollinator garden, or making your yard more pollinator-friendly:
- Use plants that are native to the region. Good sites for finding the right plants: Native Plant Society and Tufts Planting Guides
- Try to use a varied collection of nectar and pollen-rich flowers. Diversity is key, because diverse flowers will help satisfy the diverse pollinators that may visit!
- Wait until spring to clean up the garden, because eggs, larvae, pupae, and adult insect pollinators may be wintering in weed stems
- Plant milkweed for monarch butterflies, spicebush and sassafrass for spicebush swallowtail caterpillars, plants in the parsley family for black swallowtail caterpillars
- Plant your plants close together—this is effective in keeping the weeds out and attracting pollinators. You can then also cut back on your mulch and landscaping fabric use, which are less ideal
- Add woody plants, like trees and shrubs! They provide more shelter, and are less maintenance
- Because grass is a pollinator wasteland (it depletes the soil and lacks pollen, nectar, and places for shelter), you can gradually replace your grass with similar-looking plants—such as liriope, sedges, fescues, creeping thyme, bearberry, or low-growing clover.
- Planting seeds is more economical but they take more time to grow and start providing for the pollinators. If you do choose this option, spread seeds in the fall/winter so they can germinate before the blooming season.
- If you can spare dead trees and dead tree limbs (WHEN NOT A SAFETY HAZARD), bees can use them as a great source of shelter. You can also attempt a bee condo with this info.
- Companion planting is the process of strategically planting certain plants together to benefit one another. Companion plants can naturally repel pests and attract pollinators, but not many people know about this process. Learn more.
- Harvest rain water so that you can keep your water usage down
- Start composting!
- Plant flowers with inflorescence, meaning large flower heads, to attract pollinators
- Go for staggered blooming, a garden that has flowers blooming from early spring through late fall will ensure that there’s always something for the pollinators, regardless of when they’re active
- Plant in “drifts”—this means getting multiple plants of one kind and planting them close together. Pollinators are more likely to find gardens with larger “drifts” of color
- Set out salt licks or overripe fruit for butterflies. Overripe bananas, oranges, and other fruits are good nectar sources
- Planting flowers and vegetables together, known as companion planting
- Encourage birds—they are pollinators, too!! You can accomplish this by setting out bird feeders and bird houses
- AVOID using too much mulch and landscaping fabric, plant flowers closer together instead to keep out the weeds naturally and attract pollinators more effectively
- AVOID modern hybrids, many of these have lost their ability to produce nectar and pollen in the process of being modified
- AVOID Insecticides and herbicides, they’re detrimental to the pollinators
- AVOID “Doubled” flowers, many of these are sexually sterile and have little wildlife value
- AVOID rushing to clean up dead material—many pollinators’ larvae take refuge here!
Pittsburgh Pollinator Gardens
Here in Pittsburgh, we’ve installed two pollinator gardens. Swissvale was our first installation. Our second garden, located in Edgewood, is in memory of Daisy Nicole. Check out our garden page to learn more.
Volunteer day at Swissvale garden
Volunteer day at Edgewood garden
We’d like to dedicate a thank you to those who championed our pollinator gardens here in Pittsburgh. Our thanks go to Senator Jay Costa, State Representative Abigail Salisbury, Master Gardener Dr. Katie Cruger, Ryan Walker, Kelly Fraash, Edgewood Mayor, Council, and Borough Manager.
State Representative Abigail Salisbury
Senator Jay Costa
Dr. Katie Cruger
How You Can Help
Your financial donation will help us pay for construction materials and plants, while also educating and inspiring the next generation on this important issue.
If you’re interested in sponsoring a garden, donating a bee hotel, or just getting more involved please email our director of operations at email@example.com.
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