How to Make Your Backyard a Friendly Home for Bees
Scientists conclude that the effects of climate change are wreaking havoc on our bee populations, and if the trend continues, decreased bee colonies threaten to devastate our crops and ecosystems.
What can you do to make your immediate environment a healthier place for our fuzzy, winged friends? Try one–or all–of the following:
Plant a Pollinator Garden
A backyard pollinator bed creates a homey habitat for bee colonies, increases your fruit and vegetable yields, and ensures the health of your other flowers.
However, it’s important to do your research before jumping in head first; native pollinator plants are specific to different U.S. regions. Cheerios learned this the hard way when they rolled out their “Bring Back the Bees” campaign. Researchers found that some of their free seed packets contained seeds for invasive species in particular regions.
But with a little bit of planning, you shouldn’t have a problem. Consult this list of recommended native plants, catalogued by state or geographical region. Then, find a reputable seed supplier and begin mapping your garden.
Remember, it’s helpful to invest in blooms that emerge from early spring all the way until late fall. This provides nectar for various bee species. Spring-blooming flowers, shrubs, and trees are great at initially attracting, and keeping, pollinator bees.
Be aware that different types of bees have different pollinating habits. For example, some bees are drawn to a variety of plants, while others will only visit one particular type of flower. The more varied your blooms, the better.
Perennials Save Money (and Stress)
Pollinator plants are perennials, meaning they come back each year without needing to be replanted. Once you map out and plant your garden, you can enjoy blooms year after year. Just be sure to thin out any pollinators that threaten to become invasive.
Say No to Pesticides
You might be tempted to use common chemicals in order to achieve a Better Homes and Gardens-worthy lawn, but think twice before dousing your lawn in pesticides. Sprays are often toxic to animals–and bees–and can stay in human’s’ system for years. Instead, dust off your garden tools or grab your lawn mower. You’ll get a great workout AND protect the pollinators in your yard.
Pollinator plants come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Some look more wispy and weedy, while others sport gorgeous blooms (think sunflowers or evening primrose). If you’re new to pollinator gardening, it can be difficult to tell the different varieties apart.
As you plant, mark the different species with signs. Use painted rocks, popsicle sticks, or metal stakes and imprint plant names with pencil or pen. (If you’re worried about signs getting damaged or faded with weather, assemble an informal log of your garden indicating where you’ve planted each variety of flower.)
Also, consider crafting a larger, painted sign marking your garden. This will start conversations with neighbors and encourage friends and family to follow suit!
Leave a Little (Ground) Room
You might be surprised to learn that the majority of North America’s native bees–70%–nest in the ground. By leaving a little untouched patch of dirt for them, they’re able to create cozy habitats in your yard. To ensure they remain undisturbed, surround the area with chicken wire or some other barrier, like a small fence or a rock wall.
Find a Home for the Other 30%
The remaining native bees like to cozy up in wood tunnels. But if you don’t have an old fence post laying around, you can mimic their preferred nesting grounds by creating a mason bee habitat out of an old tin can and some rolled-up parchment paper. It’s cheap, easy, and it only takes five minutes.
By creating space for friendly pollinators, you’ll be making your home–and the world–a more vibrant, sustainable place.
Do you have any advice for planting a bee-friendly garden? Share your stories in the comments.
Christy Erickson savingbees.org