How to Improve Your “Bee-Friendly” Garden
As more and more people have become aware of bees’ vital role in our ecosystem (especially when it comes to pollination and food production), many have decided that they need to do all they can to help protect the bee population in their local area. For some, this means maintaining a garden that is bee-friendly. Planting a successful garden isn’t easy (for more tips, read on here), and planting a bee-friendly one is even harder. It’s not as easy as simply planting some flowers and not swatting at bees when they arrive. Fortunately, there are some easily-corrected mistakes that some novice gardeners should be aware of in order to maximize their garden.
You’re using pesticides/herbicides
Even if you’re purchasing a pesticide that is supposedly more “eco-friendly”, it can still be a danger to your local bee population. That’s right--it’s not just the few bees that come into contact that can be affected. Pesticides can negatively influence entire colonies.
“Don’t use synthetic pesticides, insecticides and herbicides. They’re known as harmful to bees and can reduce foraging, navigating abilities, fecundity, reproductive success and impair development, as well as being potentially lethal,” notes the LA Times.
Instead of using chemical pesticides, try to limit destructive insects the old fashioned way--by planting natural repellents like basil, lemongrass, and lavender in strategic locations. Check here for more on that. In addition, avoiding pesticides and chemicals could lower the frequency of pain flare-ups, as inflammation can result from toxins. Growing your own produce ensures that the food you ingest is fresh, and the addition of flowers brings beauty and pollination--a continuous circle of giving.
You’re not planting the right flowers
Bees have preferences. Not all flowers are as good for bees as others. Not only are they attracted to some over others, they also have an easier time extracting pollen from some plants. If you’re planting a lot of “double flowers” in your garden, you should reconsider.
“Single flowers — those with one ring of petals — provide more nectar and pollen than double flowers, in which extra petals have replaced pollen-laden anthers. Double flowers also make it more difficult for bees to reach the inner flower parts,” says Gardeners.com.
You should also focus on the colors of your flowers, as bees are more attracted to blue and yellow. Beyond that, it’s vital that you plant a variety and try to plant local flowers (flowers native to your specific area).
You’re not providing a place for bees to nest
If you're only thinking about your yard as a place where bees can use your flowers as a filling station and move on, then you’re not really doing all you can to make your garden bee-friendly. Many bees need a place to nest. For some, this means a clear spot on the ground. For others, it means a pile of brush or unkempt portion of grass and mud.
“Leave a patch of the garden in a sunny spot uncultivated for solitary bees that burrow. Some solitary bees also need access to soil surface for nesting. For wood- and stem-nesting bees, this means piles of branches, bamboo sections, hollow reeds, or nesting blocks made out of untreated wood. Mason bees need a source of water and mud, and many kinds of bees are attracted to weedy, untended hedgerows,” says HoneyBeeConservancy.org.
You’re forgetting about water
You wouldn’t just leave a food bowl for your dog without water, right? Bees need water to survive, but also to aid in digestion and to help them produce honey at the hive. Build a bee bath in your garden. Make sure it’s shallow and wide, and that it has some rock or stones for the bees to land on.
Maintaining any type of garden in your yard will be good for bees, but if you truly want to do your part to protect the population at a local level, you’ll do everything you can to make sure your garden is specifically bee-friendly.
Thanks to Clara Beaufort for guest writing our March article!