Ash Street Cooperative is not alone in its exposure to the diverse bee population. All of us here in Park Forest see (and have to deal with) our fair share. Considering our incredible location near two forest preserves, Sauk Trail Woods to our east and Thorn Creek Woods to our South, we share our environment with the flora, fauna and insect life that make these woods their home.
Some of these critters and bugs we tend to enjoy: hummingbirds, butterflies, wood peckers and doves. Some of them can turn into "pests" with the turning of the seasons. One in particular that comes to mind, is the bee. While there are many varieties of friendly bees that could care less about stinging you, there are a few that seem to have it out for the human population. These are the kinds of bees/hornets/wasps that have been known to not only sting, but seemingly attack.
At Ash Street, we want nothing more than for you to be comfortable outdoors around your co-op. We also want to respect the bee population that is necessary for so many cycles in the natural world, like pollinating the foods we eat. So, we've compiled a few tips on identifying bees to avoid and bees to let be. Plus, we include ways to stay safe and prevent a problem naturally.
Plant for Bumblebees
Bumblebees are the fat, fuzzy, adorable looking bees that are always found buzzing slow and low along flower beds and dandelion patches. They are, for the most part, harmless to us. They care about drinking nectar and transporting pollen from flower to flower. They are the "essential workers" that assist our food in being grown. Plants that attract these friendly fellows are typically perennial plants (they come back every year on their own) and plants with blue, yellow, purple and pink flowers. Such plants that will survive in the Midwest are: lavender, hyssop, Butterfly weed, false indigo and prairie clover just to name a few. Planting a garden especially for the bees is also one of the best ways we can influence the repair of their population and prevent bumblebees from going extinct. So, go plant a bumblebee garden and enjoy watching the fuzzy little buddies in the early morning gathering nectar.
Don't Leave Sweets or Food Outside
Wasps and hornets love nothing more than to slurp up that last drop of soda from an unwashed bottle sitting in the recycling bin. Do not give these not-so-friendly bees a reason to hang around your co-op. Making sure that garbage is properly secured, recyclables have been rinsed, and no food has been left out is a great way to reduce the chances of coming across one. These guys are the bees you want to avoid!
They will ruin a family barbecue quick and have no regard for your sense of peace! Even without being provoked, wasps and hornets have been known to sting, some of them, stinging more than once. Ouch! Keep the food indoors and experience far less of these pests.
Remove Their Options For Nest Building
Mud Dauber wasps are the black, thin-wasted, extra scary looking fellas that love to construct their homes on brick, stucco and other textured surfaces. While they won't attack unprovoked, they are more likely to perceive you provoking them as their nests tend to be so close to our homes. They also tend to build near spider webs and congregations of spiders (a delicacy of the mud dauper).
Power washing or brushing away spider webs on the outside of your cooperative and removing the new nests as they begin to appear are a great way to immediately reduce the chances of a nest near you. To do this, use a putty knife to "pop" off the new nest, leaving no part of the structure remaining. Rinse the area with water to remove any residual scent. DO NOT DO THIS with fully developed hives. This is a preventative method to be diligent with during the spring while the mud dauper begins to build.
Being proactive will allow you to enjoy a more peaceful summer without swatting those bees!
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