As I had finally thawed out from the Great Freeze of 2021 on March 6, I decided to try my hand at feeding bees and butterflies. I was short of old beaten up pans as shown in a previous teaching segment here, because my children take stuff every time they move in and out. I went to Brookshire’s, where I happened upon purple and green plastic deviled egg platters. I thought maybe the colors would attract the bees and butterflies. I bought two, and I threw in a disposable aluminum pan just in case silver is what they prefer.
On March 7, I mixed sugar water at a 1 sugar to 4 water ratio. (I specify this in case it is incorrect and can be noted.) I placed rocks from my yard that I had washed into all three containers. I put cut oranges in the silver pan with rocks. I poured the sugar water over the deviled egg platters and a little in the oranges platter. I placed them at different places in my yard.
On the morning of March 8, I discovered that my sprinkler system had gone off unexpectedly. There were no bees, so I assumed the sugar water had been diluted from the sprinkler.
On March 9, I drained the old watered down sugar water, and put in fresh sugar water. I added small sticks from my freeze- damaged trees. My cat started drinking it. I moved them so the sprinkler system could not reach them.
On March 10 and 11, nothing happened except the cat kept tasting the sugar water.
Eureka! On March 12 at noon, I found one bee drinking from the green platter. And one cat. And some ants. On the 12th, it had been pointed out to me that things are starting to bloom and the Monarchs are moving north despite the freeze, so unsaid person was pretty sure that the bees and butterflies would survive without my sugar water.
On March 13, there were no bees or butterflies, so I bought flowering plants at Lowes. I had already bought quite a few to plant at the Master Gardeners Sale the previous weekend. I don’t know if the bees will come, but at least everything won’t be brown in my yard. I even noticed that My large Texas Purple Sage, which looked like a goner from the freeze, was putting out new leaves while it still shed the dead ones.
Maybe bees and butterflies aren’t attracted to plastic deviled egg platters or oranges, or maybe all my neighbors had also been seeing the encouragement to feed bees and beat me to them. Maybe they found those plants that were already blooming.
I did look up the topic of cats drinking sugar water. It is not deemed particularly harmful to them, but, oddly, it is also noted that cats can’t taste sweet. I guess the cat just needed a drink of water.
From Suna: I did a much stronger sugar solution, 1:1, and had lots of bees. Then I read the sugar water wasn’t great for them, so who knows if I did any good or not?
A sea of color is in bloom at the Milam Wildscape project at Bird and Bee Farm outside of Milano. Most of the blooms are courtesy of native Texas plants. On a follow-up trip on Saturday, October 24, to check on the Malabar Spinach vine I am trying to keep trimmed, I was met with a surprise of different colors and some catatonic bees.
There were many shades of purple, pink, orange, yellow, red and white from a variety of plants still thriving.
The most surprising was a Cypress Vine (below) that had sprung up, wrapped itself around the awning with the spinach, climbed about four feet and proceeded to bloom since I was last at the site.
There were also Lavender Leaf Sage, American asters, Southwestern Cosmos and some pink flowering vines full of catatonic carpenter bees.
The carpenter bees had attached themselves to a few different flowers but mostly to this plentiful pink flowered vine (Suna says: coral bells Antighonon letopus). They seemed to be in a state of hibernation – probably temporary. They could be touched with almost indiscernible movement from them. (I thought they were bumble bees until I put them on iNaturalist.)
Also in bloom and growing were goldshower, cut-leaf crane’s-bill, Indian blanket, white and pink roses, and a frilly, white shrub-like flower. A pair of Gulf Fritillary were also weathering the cold front on a tropical sage.
If that’s not enough, a great group of volunteers were planting more including a couple of trees. (Pictured l to r : Carolyn Henderson, Pamela Neeley, Scott Berger, Liz Lewis, Catherine Johnson, and Donna Lewis (kneeling). Most of the foliage is putting out “babies”, and the “babies” are available for adoption to be planted at your place. For information on that, contact Catherine. You also can volunteer to help grow the wildscape by contacting her.