Is your garden bee friendly? It’s not hard to make an inviting yard for these beneficial insects. I’ve made several simple changes in my gardening routines the last few years to welcome these good bugs. Read on to see how you can make a difference…
Why Should We Care About Bees?
I think most of us take bees for granted. Those little workhorses do a world of good – they don’t just pollinate flowers and make honey. Bees pollinate much of the stuff that adds color to our plate and vitamins and antioxidants to our diet …
They give us blueberries, apples, berries, citrus fruits, cherries, melons, asparagus, avocados, squash, broccoli, carrots, onions, and much more. If it lowers cholesterol, improves eyesight, or aids the immune system, it was probably fertilized by a bee.
In addition, honey bees play a significant role in the pollination of other important crops such as soybeans, cotton, alfalfa, and flax. And there are also a number of valuable non-food products produced by the honey bee, such as beeswax used in cleaning and beauty products. It’s said 80% of the crops in the U.S. are dependent on honey bees …
Did you ever wonder where apples come from or how an apple tree develops apples? Apples begin as flowers on the apple tree. Without the help of bees though, the flowers would bloom and then wither and drop without ever having a chance to become an apple …
For a flower to actually become an apple, the pollen that is produced by the flowers on one apple tree must be transferred to the flowers on another tree …
The pollen is moved between trees by our bee friends who visit the flowers to collect nectar and pollen. Moving pollen between flowers is called cross-pollination.
How To Protect Bees
In the last several years there has been an unprecedented die off of bees. It is a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder (CCD) which first garnered attention in 2006.
There have been a number of possible explanations for CCD including pesticide use, urbanization, disease, water pollution, and parasitic mites …
Everyone can do their part to help the bees. It doesn’t matter if you garden on acres of land, or have a small patio or balcony with a few flowering containers …
At first, you may not like the idea of attracting stinging insects into the garden. Keep in mind that stinging is a defensive behavior used for defending the nest against predators. If you have ever watched a bee when it visits a flower, you probably have noticed that it is often too busy to even notice you!
Most honey bees are friendly and don’t sting unless they are threatened … usually by someone walking barefoot in the grass. I was stung years ago by accidentally kneeling on a bee while planting impatiens in our backyard. Oops! Ever since, I make sure to use a gardener’s kneeling pad when working in the garden.
Better for the knees and the bees!
Here’s How You Can Help Protect Bees:
1. Protect bees from pesticides – use organic solutions in your yard for lawn care and pest control. By using pesticides, you are not only killing the “bad bugs” (mites, flies, aphids, mosquitoes…etc.) but the “good bugs” as well (bees, ladybugs, spiders, lacewings…etc.)
There are now many organic pesticides and insecticidal soaps on the market that are safe for people and pets …
2. Provide a variety of food for bees – Go native in the ornamental garden. Native plants are especially proficient at attracting pollinators and blooming when the pollinators are active …
They also often require less water and fertilizer than non-native plants. Grow perennial plants with staggered bloom times in the spring, summer, and fall. It’s a good idea to plant clusters of the same plant so bees can easily locate them …
3. Offer a year round source of water – This can be large scale like rivers or smaller scale like homemade ponds or garden water features such as fountains …
Bees collecting water is almost as common a sight as bees on flowers. Just about any container will do for a small pond: barrels, buckets, tubs, or preformed plastic ponds. Containers which are wider than they are deep work well. Add a few goldfish to eat mosquito larvae …
4. Provide shelter for bees – Since many native species of bees build their nests in undisturbed land, if you are able, why not keep an undisturbed plot for them in your yard?
Providing shelter for bees in the garden can be as simple as maintaining a garden full of spaces guarded from the elements. A broad expanse of green grass or concrete does not offer protection from wind, rain and cold for a foraging bee …
Bees gravitate to hollowed out logs and dead trees. If you have the room, leave some for their shelter.
You don’t need a lot of space to help out bees. The big problem for native bees is losing their habitat. Since bees live on flower nectar and pollen, all the new sub-divisions with their swaths of concrete and manicured lawns, leave fewer food sources and places to live.
Give bees a hand by planting a bee-friendly garden. Plant a wide variety of flowers and aromatic herbs since different bee species favor different blooms. This will provide the best support for bees throughout their life cycle. Use plants native to your region – native flowers are four times more attractive to pollinators.
Plants To Attract Bees
* Bee Plant / Cleome
* Shasta Daisy
* Giant Hyssop
* Bee Balm / Monarda
* Joe Pye Weed
* Four o’ Clock
* Globe Thistle
In summary, we need bees to carry pollen for our fruit and vegetable crops, flowers, and trees. In recent years, they have been disappearing and dying at alarming rates …
We need to step up and do our part to give them a hand. By providing them food, shelter, water … and discontinue the use of pesticides. We can all help make a difference! Be good to the bees – they are so important!