For beating stress and calming anxiety, two of the best things you can do are to, one, stay active – especially if you choose an activity that will be meaningful beyond your day-to-day life. And, two, get outdoors. The fresh air and natural beauty can heal your soul and help put things in perspective.
Arizona’s pollinators – our bees and butterflies, plus some birds, bats, and moths – work tirelessly to help plants grow, which in turn provides us food, green landscapes, our cotton and linen clothing, and so much more. And our pollinators are in distress, what with habitat loss, pollution and pesticides in the environment, and disease. A quick pollinator project can be just the thing to lift your own spirits and lend a hand to these beautiful, indispensable creatures.
Your project doesn’t have to be as ambitious as a pollinator garden. These gardens can create a lively corner in your yard and provide a great service to the animals that use it – but even a small project can make a big difference. Here are a few ideas that can make your existing yard or garden a little more pollinator-friendly, and attract the butterflies, bees, and birds that can be so enjoyable to watch throughout the year.
1Plant a few more native flowering plants. It’s most helpful if you add plants that will flower during times of the year when your garden doesn’t already bloom. For a planting guide, visit www.pollinators.org/resources, and click on the Arizona-New Mexico guide. Or use the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum’s interactive list at www.desertmuseum.org/plantcare.
2Plant milkweed to support monarch butterflies. The Desert Botanical Garden recommends several varieties to plant and gives planting instructions at dbg.org/community/great-milkweed-grow-out.
3Create a small water feature. A small pool with sloping sides will give pollinators a chance to drink without drowning. Or install a birdbath or a small fountain.
4Create nesting habitats. This can be as simple as clearing an area where ground-nesting insects would be able to tunnel into the soil. Since most of Arizona’s wild bees nest in the ground, this can be one of the most helpful things you can do to support them. It should have no gravel or mulch, and would preferably receive a lot of sun. The tunnels will be very narrow and hard to see, about the size of a pencil eraser.
5Choose an area to leave a little messy. Another way to create nesting habitats is simply to leave leaf litter, dead plants, branches, and logs on the ground. These provide valuable nesting places for pollinators.
7Build a bee box. This is different from a beekeeper’s beehive – it’s a nesting box. Sort of a birdhouse, but for bees. Instructions can be found at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/giants-causeway/features/how-to-build-a-bee-box.
8Plant some sunflowers. Scientists believe plants in the genus Helianthus might help bees stay healthy. They also provide beautiful cut flowers, they attract wild birds, and they even help detoxify contaminated soil.
9Turn a flowerpot upside down. It’s that easy to create a safe nesting place for bumblebees.
We’re all connected, and we’re all in this together – possibly nothing demonstrates that better than our pollinators. So when you’re feeling alone, overwhelmed, or anxious, helping these little creatures could be a great way to help yourself, too.
Patricia Sanders lived in Globe from 2004 to 2008 and at Reevis Mountain School, in the Tonto National Forest, from 2008 to 2014. She has been a writer and editor for GMT since 2015. She currently lives on Santa Maria island in the Azores.