Bees play a significant role in our ecosystem and are responsible for as much as one-third of the food humans consume! They aid in plant fertilization by helping spread pollen from one plant to another. Without bees, many plants would cease to exist due to an inability to reproduce naturally. More than 100 crucial crops rely on bees for cross-pollination, including carrots, cranberries, alfalfa, broccoli, almonds, apples, blueberries, and soybeans. Additionally, bees are the masterminds behind our one of favorite sweet treats - honey.
Unfortunately, honeybees and other types of bees are on the decline due to environmental factors, disease, and insufficient habitats. Luckily, we can play our part in helping to save the bees by supporting local beekeepers, teaching our youth about the importance of environmental sustainability, and planting bee gardens. Here is our quick guide to cultivating a perfect bee garden this spring.
What is a bee garden?
A bee garden is a garden designed to attract wild bees to assist in the reproduction and conservation of these wonderful creatures. It can also have incredible benefits for your garden as bees can help your plants, herbs, and flowers thrive. Bee gardens are designed to create a habitat for bees through careful selection of plants and include a water source and some form of nesting shelter.
How can I create the ultimate bee garden?
Welcoming bees into your gardening space is simple when you have the right elements. It would be ideal if we could all plant our bee gardens in a sunny spot sheltered from the wind, but that isn’t very realistic. While bees prefer warm, sheltered areas – we encourage you to plant a garden anywhere you can! Even if you can grow a handful of wildflowers or herbs together in a window box or planter, you can create a foraging habitat.
Regardless of where your bee haven will be, here are some of our top tips.
Choose native plants that attract bees
Bees love wildflowers, berries, flowering herbs, fruits, and vegetables. If you have space, planting any type of fruit tree is perfect for attracting bees, and willow, maple, and black locust provide a great food source!
Choose a wide variety of flowers that are most attractive to bees and will bloom at different times throughout the year for a steady supply of pollen and nectar. Some of bee’s favorite flowers include:
- Annuals: asters, marigolds, sunflowers, dandelions, clover, petunias, pansies, zinnias
- Perennials: calendula, dahlias, cosmos, roses, snowdrops, geraniums, tansy
- Garden Plants: pumpkins, blueberries, gourds, blackberries, watermelon, cucumber
- Herbs: borage, lavender, mint, fennel, thyme, sage, bee balm
- Trees: fruit trees, black locust, basswood, maples, magnolia, willows, sycamore
Group the same plants together
When thinking about the layout of your bee-friendly garden, bunch similar plants closely together, ideally within one square yard of space. Bees have great color vision, and they especially like purple, blue, white, and yellow. Plant flowers in a floral bull’s eye – clumping single species in bunches instead of scattering them around will make it an easier target for bees. It also helps them hop from bloom to bloom!
Provide a water source
Like any living creature, honeybees need water to survive, so consider adding a bee bath to your garden this spring! They’re easy to build and provide an enticing reason for bees to visit. Besides providing a place of refreshment, bees will use the water source to help cool their hive and dilute honey for feeding baby bees.
Avoid using pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides
These chemicals can be toxic to bees and may indirectly impact beneficial wildlife and deplete populations of pollinators and pest predators. Instead, use natural pest controls like garden fleece, netting, mesh barriers, and natural weed controls.
Recognize the beauty and value of “weeds”
It is easy to forget that many plants we consider weeds do a brilliant job at supporting bees and other wildlife. Dandelions, milkweed, goldenrod, lawn clovers, and other flowering weeds can provide an excellent pollen and nectar source for bees. So, try a more hands-off approach to your lawn this year and watch the bees flood in!
Include a bee hotel
Providing bee habitats is a great way to add bee diversity to your garden by attracting solitary bees like mason bees. These types of bees do not live in hives and do not produce honey, but they are fantastic pollinators! Since these bees do not have a store of honey to protect, they are non-aggressive and are safe around children and pets.
Need more reasons to start a bee garden? Here are 6 reasons WE love bees (and think you should too!)
Want to learn how to garden for skin health? Here are some terrific tips and recipes for DIY all-natural skincare.