Sunday, October 11, 2020

In Praise of Dead Old Trees

What to do with that dead tree in your yard? In a forest even a dead tree has its place providing homes and food to a variety of wildlife, what about the one in your property? You could leave it standing instead of cutting it down to the ground. You may have to remove some of the branches for safety reasons and keep only the trunk and main branches. Of course your neighbors and visitors may frown upon such untidiness. What can you say to them? You may tell them that it is an abstract sculpture. A dead tree isn't lacking in beauty but we are so obsessed with tidiness and the manicured look that it takes a readjustment of our esthetic vision to accept such a sight. Look at the architecture of the branches, the subtle hues of the weathered wood, the contrast between its stark lines and the exuberant greenery of the rest of your yard and you will begin to notice that it adds an interesting note to the whole.

In addition to its esthetic value a dead tree can become a home to numerous valuable pollinators, native bees that take advantage of the holes drilled by beetle larvae; also a dead tree may be very beneficial to woodpeckers, which may even prefer it to your live trees and leave them alone. And remember that when you are leaving that dead tree in your yard you are not really doing the pollinators and woodpeckers a favor but allowing them to have what is legitimately theirs. This is the way of Nature, all these creatures contribute to the ecological balance.

If you want to help the native bees even further, you can drill a few holes in the dead wood, they should be about the width of an ordinary pencil (they can be a little wider or a little narrower, there are so many species of bees that they come in several different sizes). The holes should be about six to eight inches long, slightly slanted upwards to protect them from the rain and they should face south or south east so the sun warms them up in the morning. I hope that next spring you get a few tenants in your bee condo.

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