How You Can Use Your Garden to Help Save the Bees
Every day more gardeners are getting the itch to create a bee garden. By planting one of these, you can do what you need to do in order to help the bees because you will be adding to the ever-increasing lack of flower habitat that they need in order to survive. The bees will help you too by pollinating the flowers and vegetables you plant, which can ensure that you get a good harvest of vegetables, fruits, and seeds while you also have the joy of watching them hover over your garden. Here are a few helpful tips for planting a bee garden.
Consider Your Grass
You might decide to replace all or part of the grass in your front lawn with plants that flower, which can provide both habitat and food for the pollinators such as butterflies, solitary bees, bumble bees, and honey bees.
Choose Single Flower Tops
These could be things like marigolds or daisies. They are better for the bees than those plants with double flower tops, like double impatiens. The flowers with double heads might appear showy, but they don’t produce as much nectar, and this makes it more difficult for the bees to gain access to the pollen.
Skip the Hybrids
Most of the time, hybrid plants have been bred in such a way that they will not seed, and this means that they will provide the bees with very little pollen.
Plan to Use Plants that Will Bloom All Year
You should plant a minimum of 3 different types of plants and flowers in the garden that will ensure you have blossoms through as many of the seasons as you can. This will give the bees and other pollinators a source of food that is constant, regardless of the season.
- Wild lilac, calendula, borage, hyacinth, and crocus provide the bees with blooms in the spring.
- Bees can feed on Hosta, foxglove, snapdragons, echinacea, cosmos, and bee balm in the summer.
- Goldenrod, witch hazel, asters, sedum, and zinnias keep them fed in the fall.
Native Bees Need Homes
When you are creating a bee garden, it is always a good idea to leave a space in the sun uncultivated for the native bees to use for burrowing. Some of the native bees will need soil to nest in. For stem and wood nesting bees, there is a need for nesting blocks made from wood that is untreated, hollow reeds, bamboo sections, or piles of branches. Mason bees will need a source of mud and water, and quite a few types of bees will be attracted to untended, weedy hedgerows.
About Fertilizers and Pesticides
When it comes to bee gardens. You should avoid using any sort of pesticides or herbicides. They can be toxic for the bees, but they are also not very healthy for people who might pay a visit to your garden. Praying mantises, spiders, and ladybugs will keep the population of pests in check.
Bees will always need a place where they have access to clean, fresh water. You can simply fill a shallow container with water and a few twigs or pebbles so that the bees will have something for them to stand on while they drink the water. Be sure that it always has fresh water so that they will know that they can come for the water on a daily basis.
You only need a little bit of land to have a bee garden. You can even use a rooftop or a window container if you live in an apartment. Any space at all that can create an oasis for bees is helpful.
Bees might be having a difficult time, but each of us can do our part to assist in saving them. You don’t have to be a beekeeper to do this. In fact, many of the other pollinators that aren’t bees are in trouble too.
As an example, the Rusty-patched bumblebee in North America used to be commonly found. Now, it is one of the species that are right on the knife-edge of extinction. It has been declared to be endangered due to a plummet of 90% in their population. 7 different species of the Hawaiian yellow-faced bees are now receiving protection from the Endangered Species Act. Even in places like the UK, there are some of the species of bees that have already gone extinct. There are also several species of butterflies that are suffering.
It isn’t too late though. We can all do what we can to help these creatures – and making that difference needs to begin at home. In fact, quite a few of the steps that you take to help the bees will also help the other pollinators that we depend on. Bees can be likened to the ‘canary in the coal mine’ when it comes to other types of pollinators.
Because of this, the steps that we each take to make a better habitat for the bees, will also help other beneficial invertebrates and pollinators.
You should never underestimate how important the steps that you take to help the bees in your own garden are. We all need to do our part to create feeding stations that are free from toxins for them. This is how we can increasingly create habitats that are linked in order to assist the bees and the other suffering species when it comes to extending their range.
You can actually make a difference, and together, we can make a massive difference. Let’s look at a few more ways to do that.
Give Them a Long Season of the Right Flowers
Saving your local bees begins with flowers. Give them a long season of pollen and nectar-rich flowers. This will help other pollinators as well as the bees. Make sure that you have plants, trees, shrubs, and flowers in bloom for as long as you can in your garden. Some species of bees might come early and will be searching for a source of nectar and pollen that is provided by bulbs that are planted in the spring – like crocuses and narcissus. Herbs like rosemary and even the pussy willow can also be helpful. Also, keep in mind that some bees will continue to forage late in the seasons, so it is important to have plants that flower late in the garden too. Winter heathers are a good choice for this.
Go with herbs, cottage garden, and old-fashioned blooms. When you are choosing the plants you want for your garden, keep in mind that the old-fashioned, simple varieties are the best options when compared to those that are highly cultivated. Heathers and herbs are typically wonderful for bees, and so are the typical cottage flowers. An added bonus is that these never go out of style.
A garden also looks great to bees when it has wildflowers. There are quite a few ways to make space for these in a garden, depending on your circumstances and preferences. You might use a few in pots or at the borders, or any number of other options.
A Bit of Water, Bare Ground, and Mud
Keep in mind that water is as important to bees as it is to us. You can provide that for them – maybe with a tiny little wildlife pond. Mud is also useful. Some species of bees will make their nests from mud. Other species prefer to make their nests on semi-bare ground or in lawns, so you might want to leave a small patch for them.
If you ever notice that there are small mounds made from mud in your yard, and they have tiny holes in the top, you might have stumbled onto a solitary bee ground nest. You can leave them alone. Also, please try not to use any sort of chemicals on your yard as this could be toxic for them and other pollinators.
The old stems of shrubs and plants might have little bees or maybe other critters wintering inside. If you want to tidy up your lawn and garden through the winter, try not to burn the parts you prune. When possible, leave those stems and branches on their plants and shrubs until spring. When you do finally cut them off, you might consider leaving them in a pile at the rear of the garden or having them hauled away by the trash collector as opposed to burning them.
Some of the pesticides that are used – like neonicotinoid insecticides – can stay in the ground for many years, and this means that they can continue to be taken up by plants that grow there.
These insecticides work in essence by making a plant that is toxic. They are designed in such a way that the nectar and sap of the plants and trees are poisoned so that any pests that feed on them will die. The unfortunate thing is that they also kill butterflies and bees.
Consider this – the patents for these pesticides say that the chemicals will ‘control’ species of Lepidoptera, which are moths and butterflies. Because of this, it is a bit much for the makers of them to try and make us believe that they won’t harm butterflies that aren’t pests – like Monarchs – especially when independent studies have shown that they also harm insects that aren’t targeted.
These patents don’t mention the bees at all because products that claimed that they will harm bees will not be legalized. However, they do say that they are effective when it comes to controlling wasp species and those are very closely related to the bees.
This class of insecticides includes Nitenpyram, Dinotefuran, Thiamethoxam, Thiacloprid, Clothianidin, Acetimacloprid, and Imidacloprid. Many of the more well-known pesticides for gardens contain one or more of these substances. The same is true for quite a few products meant for lawn care. You should also keep your eyes peeled for insecticides that contain Cyantraniliprole, Flupyradifurone, and Sulfoxaflor, as these are the newest generation of insecticides in this class.
If you are among the millions of people who want to save the bees, you need to try to find natural options for controlling pests. These might include putting bird houses up or blasting the aphids with your water hose. You might even put a ladybird/ladybug house near the plants that have aphids. You should also keep in mind that wasps are friends to gardeners and most species of insects are either harmless or beneficial.
Another unfortunate thing is that a lot of the plants you can buy from garden centers were grown using these insecticides. We can all ask the local retailers why they won’t ban them.
Is there anything else you can do to save the bees? Of course, there is. You can:
- Keep in mind that most of the best flowers for the bees can be grown from seeds.
- If you will be purchasing seeds, bulbs, and/or plants, get them from suppliers that are organic.
- Trade plants with gardeners who also want to save the bees and go to plant fairs where you can actually talk to the gardeners.
Eat Organic Foods
Neonicotinoid and other pesticides in its class are widely used when it comes to agricultural crops of foods. These are the ones that wind up on the shelves in your local grocery stores. Maybe the time is now for you to begin growing your own veggies and fruits that will be free from pesticides. You might be surprised at just how many green beans and courgettes you will be able to grow in just a couple of pots outside your door. You can also grow quite a few herbs easily.
If you have a brown thumb or no space to grow your own food, you can always by organic produce when you are doing your shopping, even if it is only a single item, because every little bit helps.
When you buy a product, you are essentially casting a vote.
If you purchase at least a bit of organic food, your purchases and everyone else’s will be sending a message to the retailers, which then goes on to the farmers.
It is that simple.
- Lady Freethinker, How to Plant Your Garden to Save the Bees
- New York Bee Sanctuary, 10 Ways You can Help Save the Bees
- Queen of the Sun, Ten Things You can do to Help Bees
- DIY Natural, Simple Ways You Can Help to Save the Honey Bees