There are so many ways on how to attract bees into your yard or garden, just as there are many good reasons why we need to help save the bees. They are vital to the health of agriculture and natural ecosystems. Bees are also educational.
Unfortunately, they are becoming rarer due to a variety of reasons. Loss of habitat may be one. So try creating a bee habitat in your garden.
Following are some tips on how to make your garden a bee-friendly place.
1. Do not use pesticides (insect-killers) or herbicides (weed-killers) of any kind. The insecticides on your plants will harm and kill the bees that visit them, and herbicides will kill off those flowers that are desirable for bees.
Most Americans work to remove dandelions and clover from their lawns, but these are important plants for bees (and for the health of your lawn - clover adds nitrogen to the soil). See Note below
Let the wildflowers and grasses take over a segment of your garden. Fence it off if you like. If it bothers you to have this unkempt area of your garden, consider locating this free-form habitat in another area of your property. You can also put up a whimsical sign that designates the ragged area as the bees'.
Leave some of your lawn unkempt and allow it to grow. Most lawns have clover or dandelion, so allow these flowers to grow unchecked in one area of your yard. You can fence it off with a bit of low, portable fencing if it goes against your sense of aesthetics!
Try to let native plants grow as much as possible so the pollination effect with the surrounding ecosystem is positive and strengthening.
Bees love flowers. And that’s all there is to it. But there are some flowers they love a little more than others. Try to go with native plants as much as possible so the pollination effect with the surrounding ecosystem is positive and strengthening. Bees also are attracted to certain color more than others. Aim to plant more blue, purple, yellow and white flowers if you wish to attract more bees but that doesn’t mean you can’t plant flowers of every shade.
Here are a few suggestions:
Medicinal and Culinary Herbs are loved by bees. Whether you inter-space your herbs as companion plants or have a little space set aside for your kitchen or medicinal herbs, bees will find them.
One of my favorites is to use thyme plants as a border edging for both flower and vegetable beds. Thyme is easy to grow in bulk so it costs just the price of a package of seeds to have dozens of plants. But you don’t necessarily need dozens of plants, for thyme, generous plant that it is, is a perennial that will spread every year without much encouragement.
The reason I love to grow it along the edges of garden beds is also for the wonderful aroma that wafts through the air when you mow your lawn! Saves a lot of fuss and time over lawn edges, time I’d rather spend working in my vegetable patch.
Okay, let’s be honest here. Time I’d rather spend with a good book sitting in the shade with a large glass of cold lemon water!
Many of these plants, and others, need bees to pollinate their flowers so naturally their flowers are designed to attract bees! If you’ve gardened before with squash and similar plants that keep producing flowers until the season is over, you’ll learn a good lesson from them.
If you want to attract bees to your yard, plant so that there is always something in bloom. Space out your flowers, for example, so that once the Spring snowdrops and crocuses are finished, your early Summer flowers are coming into bloom, then mid- summer varieties, and into Fall.
Boxwood - Note the tiny White Flower Buds
Bumble bees like leaf litter and the undersides of wooden boards. You may want to set up a commercial bee hive to attract honeybees, or improvise something with a wooden box. Is there a spot you can leave un-mowed, perhaps a little wild, especially a space that won’t be disturbed, like a patch behind the garage?
I know some neighbors may not be too fussy about it but if you can plant a shrub or two of perennials like Rosemary, that disguise your bee habitat, perhaps they won’t mind. Or, better yet, simply explain what you are doing and why and you may find them joining the crusade to save bees.
Go above and beyond these easy steps and create a bee box or house, just
as you would for a bird. Bee house are built a little different but are
even easier to make than birdhouses.
The directions are here for how to build a bee house by drilling holes in a block of wood.
And here you can find instructions on how to build one from hand rolled straws. This can be a fun project to do with children, but according to the Montana Wild Life Gardener (see above link) they may not work that well.
Bees like and need water, so add a water feature or birdbath to your garden. Make sure you have plenty of stones or water plants punctuating the surface so that a bee can quickly climb out if it falls in. Use flowering water plants to add to the bee-friendly habitat.
If in your “wild spot” (see Tip #4) you can leave a patch that turns to mud when you water or it rains, bees will love you for it, too. I know you don’t want standing water that will attract mosquitoes, but a little mud patch from watering every so often will help. You may even have seen bees hovering over a mud puddle after a down pour to understand how vital this is for their survival.
Just do remember they seek the edges to drink from so create a rock island or rock border to your bee bath.
That's right, leave them alone. This is not only good advice for avoiding stings, but it will help keep bees coming to your garden. If bees perceive an area as unsafe, they will not return.
A warning about bedding plants you might purchase at your local nursery from Friends of the Earth/ Les Amies de la Terre Canada:
If you are interested in how to attract bees, please get a copy of their book, Gardeners Beware
"Neonicotinoids aren’t just used in agriculture- many plants sold at home garden centres have also been pre-treated with these bee-killing pesticides.
Unfortunately, many gardeners have no idea that they may actually be poisoning pollinators through their efforts to plant bee-friendly gardens.
The 2014 Gardener’s Beware report, released by Friends of the Earth Canada, Friends of the Earth U.S., and the Pesticide Research Institute, found that 51% of plant samples collected big box stores in 18 cities across Canada and the U.S. contained bee-killing neonicotinoids."
Please get a copy of this report if you can.
Bees give us life.
Bees are wonderful to watch, and can bring pleasure and interest to any gardener. Bees are important means of pollination, which increases flower, fruit and vegetable yields. Bees are a vital part of a healthy eco-system, and their presence in the garden can be very educational for adults and children. The number of bees visiting gardens is dwindling, which is all the more reason to create a hospitable habitat to help them out.
You'll also be reducing the stress for the environment and all it's little creatures, too. In fact, what you'll be doing is saving the planet and it's eco-system.
When you plant something as simple as Forget-me-nots, you'll be remembering the stewardship we humans hold over the Earth.
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