You might be thinking what exactly is a bee friendly garden? Aren’t all gardens naturally friendly to bees? While it might seem like planting flowers is all that’s necessary to attract those hard-working little pollinators, the truth is that there is a lot more to it. Bees are of vital importance to our way of life and we need to protect them from the ever present danger of extinction. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has taken its toll on bee populations and as a result shaken the agricultural world. While scientists are still trying to unravel the mystery of this disorder, there are things that even ordinary citizens can do to fight the decline. Taking the following steps will not only protect and rehabilitate your local bee population but also give you a healthier, more vibrant garden!
Diversity is everything!
Fill your garden space with flowers that are staggered so that when some flowers fade for the season others are just beginning to open. This will insure the bees have a reliable year round food source.
Have a drink on us
Pollinating your garden is thirsty work and those bees would greatly appreciate a place to rest and re-hydrate. “But couldn’t bees just drink from the birdbath?” Unfortunately no. Bees are not good swimmers and even a birdbath is too deep for them to safely use without falling in. Try setting out a shallow bowl of water dotted with flat stones or sticks that bees can land on and drink without fear of drowning. Place the bowls on ground level near plants plagued by parasites and the other beneficial bugs that come to drink will work as an efficient and chemical free pest control.
Watch what you spray!
Recent scientific research points to certain pesticides as one of the main reasons bee colonies collapse. Try to limit chemical pesticide use in your garden whenever possible. If you must use pesticides it is best to avoid those that contain neonicotinoids which are known to kill bees.
A hive away from home
Honey bees are marvelously beneficial to gardens, but they certainly aren’t the only game in town. Other good bugs such as Mason bees are another kind of guest you’ll want to visit your yard. Bee houses are wonderful lures for Mason bees who are more docile than honey bees are even better pollinators than their famous cousins.
Bees are color lovers and are especially attracted to shades of blue, purple, white and yellow. Clump flowers together by color to make them easier for bees to locate. If you’re plagued by indecisiveness like myself and are having trouble picking just the right flowers, bee boxes are the perfect fix. They contain plants that are guaranteed to attract pollinators to your garden.
It’s all about pollen
If you’re looking to really up the interest of your garden to local pollinators planting single bloom flowers is the best choice. Plants sporting double headed blooms and highly hybridized plants tend to produce less pollen than the soloists. Less pollen means less bees, so it is best to brush up on which flowers to keep and which to avoid. *Pro tip: Native plants attract native bees, but exotic plants attract honeybees!