By: Clara Beaufort
Bees are one of the many - if not the greatest - gifts Mother Nature has given to humans. Scientists say that bees play a role in the pollination of up to 80% of the foods we eat every years. Without bees, the world would be a much different place. If you want to do your part to help protect your local bee populations, here's how to make your backyard garden a haven for bees.
Most pollinators (bees included) are best adapted to love plants that are native to the area in which they live. Bees will still grab pollen and nectar from non-native species, but if you really want to attract the masses, be sure to lean heavily on the natives - especially wildflowers. Before planting, do some research to find out which flowers are native to your particular area.
Plant A Variety
As The Spruce points out, North America’s more than 4,000 bee species are quite different. These bees are different sizes, attracted to different plants, and have different tongue shapes (affecting how they draw nectar). So if you want to cater to as many bees possible, you’ll plant a variety of flowers. Most bees are more likely to prefer single-layer flowers as opposed to double-layer, however, as they are easier to access for nearly all species.
Stagger Your Blooms
If you plant flowers that all bloom at the exact same time, you’re only going to attract bees during that short window. That’s why it’s important to know exactly when the plants in your garden bloom and how long they bloom so you can be sure to have at least some flowers in full-bloom from spring through fall. Here’s a handy “blooms when” calendar to utilize.
Don't Forget About Habitat
While worrying about attracting bees with flowers and planting things they’ll love, you may forget that your backyard garden should not only be a stopover place for nectar and pollen collection, but also a place where bees can live. The majority of bees are in fact nesting varieties, and many like to burrow into the ground. By leaving some garden space unplanted and avoiding using ground coverings, you can give these species of bees a place to live. Others prefer wood and brush, so leaving a portion of your garden unkempt can also help.
Cluster Plants of the Same Type
If you want to create a place where it’s easy for bees to extract their goods, you should plant clusters of the same plants instead of spreading them out across your whole garden. If you don’t have a lot of space to work with anyway, this can actually be of benefit, as tightly-grouped plants provide a more welcoming habitat for bees.
Give the Bees Easy Access to Water
Don’t forget about the water! Like birds, bees will be attracted to a water bath placed in your yard. Your birdbath cannot double for a bee bath, however, as the two animals need different things in a water source. Bees prefer shallow, wide water sources that contain rocks, pebbles, and sticks that make it easier to land and drink (bees aren’t really “hover drinkers”). Here’s a good resource on building a bee bath.
By helping out local bee populations, you’re not only helping your own community and helping to pollinate your own garden, you’re also doing your part to help fight a global bee depopulation crisis. Not all gardens are created equal - at least when bees are concerned. There are proven ways to make yours more attractive if you take the time to cater to their specific needs.