Dos and Don’ts for Creating Your Bee-Friendly Garden by Maria Cannon
If you like apples, berries, almonds, avocados, and cucumbers, protecting the world’s bee population should be of vital importance to you. In fact, bees are responsible for pollinating at least 75 percent of all nut, fruit, and vegetable crops in the US. Without bees, our ecosystem would look much, much worse. These crucial pollinators are to thank for one out of every three bites of food you put in your mouth.
Starting a bee-friendly garden in your own backyard is one of the best ways to do your part to help protect your local bee populations. Here are some dos and don’ts for the beginning gardener.
DO plant native plants and flowers
Honeybees are not that picky when it comes to plants. They will forage both native and non-native plant species alike. But honeybees aren’t the only type of bees that you have to consider. There are thousands of other species of bees that play a crucial role in pollination, and most of them prefer native species of plants. Check out this resource for lists of native plants from nearly every region in the US.
DON’T spread similar flowers out across your garden
Bees prefer clusters of plants as opposed to spaced-out single flowers. If you have a bunch of sunflowers, for example, plant them together in your garden. Don’t plant one here and another across the yard. This is good news for people who wish to plant a garden in a smaller space. Not everyone has an acre for a garden, but using planters, window boxes, tiered planting systems, and walls and fences for flowering vines is actually a really good technique for attracting bees.
DO leave parts of your yard unkempt
If you love a perfectly-manicured garden, you’re not alone. They do look nice. But if you want to create a place where bees not only stop by for a taste of pollen, but also can live, you must leave some areas of your garden a bit unkempt. Most bees do not live in hives. The vast majority of bee species burrow into the ground, or make nests in mud or inside pieces of wood. By leaving part of your garden unkempt and part of it open, clear, unplanted ground, you can give bees a habitat. Also, be sure your landscaping is sloped so that water runoff won’t pool in your yard. Not only does this protect the foundation of your home, it ensures that any spots bees may want to burrow in aren’t compromised.
Bonus tip: don’t kill those dandelions and clover in your yard. Bees like them, and they are a good source of food for them during the times when other flowers are not yet in bloom.
DON’T treat your garden with pesticides
The prevailing theory of many scientists is that widespread pesticide use in agriculture is playing a part in the decline of bee populations. When growing your backyard garden, you should stay away from pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and any other chemicals used to kill pests or weeds. Bees exposed to such chemicals can be harmed. Even worse than that, however, is when bees bring these pesticides back to their nests or hives and damage the entire colony. Pesticides are especially brutal to young bees. When building your garden, you should go organic. You may have to deal with some extra bug bites on your leaves or some extra weeds - but it’s worth it to protect our most vital pollinators.
Most any garden you build is going to be a boon for bees, but there are steps you can take to make sure your garden is particularly friendly to your local bee population. If you plant native flowers in clusters, give bees a place to build a home, and refrain from using pesticides, you’ll be well on your way to making a bee-friendly space.
By Maria CannonPhoto Credit: Pixabay.com