As a gardener, you have it in your power to make a huge difference in the lives of bees by bee gardening. Bee populations are in serious decline, with habitat loss being one of the primary causes. You can help reverse this trend by creating an environment that makes it easy for bees to water, shelter, pollen, and be free from the threat of pesticides.
So, what is bee gardening? It’s making your yard a welcoming environment for bees. It’s taking the time to understand their needs and desires, and creating your garden in such a way that it provides them everything they need. If you do this with the elements below in mind, you will be well on your way to creating bee-friendly gardens that will help support bee populations in your area.
This post will teach you the basics of caring for bees in your garden. It includes four elements that bees need to thrive: water, shelter, pollen, and pesticide control. We hope you will use these tips to make a difference in the survival of these important insects.
4 ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS FOR BEE GARDENING
1) Providing Water
Bees, just like humans, need a source of water to stay healthy and safe. The bees use the water not only for drinking, but also:
- Air conditioning—During hot days, bees will spread a thin film of water over the baby bee cells. The water will evaporate, cooling the hive.
- Feeding baby bees – Nurse bees will feed the larvae a mixture of water, pollen, nectar and royal jelly. This can be up to 80% water on the first day!
- Diluting honey – Bees drink the honey they make, but sometimes the honey gets too thick to drink. The bees add water to thin it out.
Bees can find natural water sources, like rivers or ponds. However, not all beehives are near a body of water. In these cases, bees will look for water elsewhere. For example, in the backyard swimming pool or in a ditch. These sources of water may contain chlorine or pesticides which can be harmful to bees.
Consider adding one of the following features to your property to ensure that the bees in your gardens have adequate access to fresh water:
2) Providing Shelter
A good way to attract pollinators to your garden is to provide nesting sites for them.
- Bare patches of soil—Bumblebees and many other kinds of bees nest in the ground, so open patches of bare soil will be useful.
- Leave some dead wood—Dead wood can be used by a variety of pollinators: some bees, wasps, beetles and ants build nests out of wood.
- Create man-made nesting sites—For example, bee-nesting blocks can be made out of an untreated wood block by drilling holes into it ¼ inches in diameter and 3-5 inches deep. Mount the block on a post or the side of a building. An ideal place would be under the eaves of a garage or shed, which gives some protection from rain.
- Provide overwintering sites—Pollinators also need protection for overwintering, so instead of cleaning up your gardens in the fall, wait until late spring. Perennials and grasses left standing will provide shelter and will give winter interest to your garden.
3) Controlling Pests Without Pesticides
Pesticides are harmful to pollinators and other beneficial insects. They can remove important floral resources, cause subtle yet concerning effects on reproduction, navigation, and memory, and kill bees outright. Pesticides can also compound the effects of other stressors on pollinator populations, such as loss of habitat and exposure to pathogens and diseases.
- Pesticides can harm the environment, especially when they seep into groundwater or run off into waterways.
- Pesticides can also harm humans, causing permanent damage to eyesight, muscle coordination and even cancer.
Here are a few alternatives to Pesticides that may be helpful:
- Attracting beneficial insects
- Diversified planting
- Removing pests by hand
- Adding barriers and traps to impede pests
- Using homemade organic pesticides (if absolutely necessary)
4) Plant Native Flowers
One of the pleasures of home gardeners is having your favorite flowers right outside your door and creating your personal paradise. However, you should always research which plants are native to your area and which will be more difficult to grow.
Native plants will typically be able to fend off disease and common pests who live in your area more easily compared to a foreign plant species. Researching native plant species that thrive on your natural soil and seasonal weather changes allows you greater enjoyment of watching your garden flourish by using plants that are well-adapted to your area. Here is an article about native plants essential to bee gardens: Bee Gardens: 12 Essential Native Plants Bees Love.
Maintaining a habitat for bees by bee gardening is beneficial to the entire environment, and it’s a simple job for you to do. To learn about bee gardening and help bees sustain themselves in your own yard, follow these four easy steps: water, shelter, pollen, and pesticide control. If you pay attention to these elements of bee habitat, then you will be supporting bee populations right in your own backyard. We hope that this post has inspired you to take the time to learn more about bees and what they need in order to thrive. Hopefully, we will all be reminded of just how important it is that we take the time to support this amazing ecosystem.
- Pollinators at a Crossroads. (2020, June 24). USDA. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2020/06/24/pollinators-crossroads
- What are the causes of bee decline? (n.d.). Friends of the Earth. https://friendsoftheearth.uk/nature/what-are-causes-bee-decline