My mom sent me a link to an interesting article a while ago, and it seems particularly relevant now that Spring is here and my garden is full of flowers and pollinators. It's actually a guide for "urban bee gardeners" from UC Berkeley's College of Natural Resources, and it points out a funny contradiction that conscientious gardeners should be aware of: mulch is not good for wild bees.
It turns out, the majority of native California bees are actually ground-nesting. That means that, rather than building the classic hive hanging from a tree branch, they actually dig little holes in the soil and put their cells inside. So, if you mulch like crazy to suppress weeds and keep water from evaporating before it soaks into the soil, you might also be making it harder for bees to nest.
Since bees are also essential in a good organic garden--and, well, essential for life as we know it--I think it's important to know about their need for naked ground. That way, we can all leave a place in our yard that is both plant and mulch-free, so California bees can happily reproduce.
My backyard is still a bit of a wilderness in places, so I don't think the bees will have trouble finding bare ground to dig their little holes. But I'm glad I know about this, just in case I manage to tame the whole space someday.
In the meantime, the bees in my yard are busily buzzing around my lavender, native plants and, happily, my blooming fruit trees. Hopefully all that careful pollination will bring some tasty homegrown apples, peaches and oranges in the coming year.