If you’ve followed the news for the past several years, you probably already know about the declining bee population. It’s gotten to the point where US winter losses have hovered between 30 and 50 percent for the last several years – more in some locations. And a long-term US national agricultural study has shown that the overall bee population has dropped from 6 million hives in 1947, to a low of 2.4 million in 2008. Needless to say, this is not sustainable.
Healthy, working bee populations are essential to agriculture. Without bees, crops don’t get fertilized, and we aren’t able to produce as much food. But bees aren’t just essential to our national economy. They’re also essential to our backyards. They fertilize flower beds, fruit trees, and other desirable plants that we love to cultivate. To keep your garden healthy, you need to attract bees, and we’ve put together a guide to help you do just that. Let’s get started!
Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. This is just as true for bees as it is for people. Imagine your favorite meal. Now imagine eating it three times a day, every day. You’d get sick of it pretty quickly. To attract a thriving, healthy bee population, you need a variety of flowers for them to feed on.
First off, you want to use a variety of flower shapes. Different species of bees are different sizes, and they have different tongue lengths. This means they need to feed on flowers of different shapes. You also want to incorporate flowers of different colors. Bees have a powerful color vision, and they can easily distinguish between differently-colored flowers to find the nectar that tastes best to them.
Another important consideration is to plant flowers that blossom at different times of year. If all of your flowers bloom in spring, you might attract some bees – only for them to move on in summer when there’s nothing for them to eat. You’ll also be able to support a variety of bee species, since not all species feed during the same times of year.
Finally, don’t limit yourself to fancy hothouse plants. Look for wildflowers and other native flower species. Your local bees have evolved alongside these species, and prefer them to other flowers. The Xerces Society has a helpful guide to finding the best wildflowers for your region.
Now that your bees have something to eat, they need somewhere to live. Leave a small pile of brush, or some dead wood, which your bees can use as a habitat. Reeds and mud are also helpful for certain species.
There’s no reason to limit yourself to natural habitats, either. You can use bee hotels or something similar to create an artificial home for your bees. This can help attract species that might otherwise pass up your backyard altogether.
When people think about bees, they generally picture a flower garden. But other plants can also provide sustenance for your local bee colonies. Trees and vegetable garden plants can also support a thriving colony. For example, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, and strawberries all produce flowers. And once the bees are done feeding on these plants, you can eat the fruits and vegetables they’ve helped pollinate!
When you’re planting your garden, make sure that there’s plenty of sunlight. Not only is this good for most garden plants, it’s also ideal for bees. And plant a hedge or put up a fence if you frequently get powerful winds. Bees hate wind, and will seek out sheltered areas on a windy day.
Just like humans, bees also need water. Leave out a shallow pan or a birdbath with water in it. Make sure to change the water at least once a week, to prevent these areas from becoming breeding grounds for mosquitos.
This will probably surprise absolutely no-one, but pesticides are designed to kill insects. Even most organic pesticides can be deadly to bees.
Steer clear of them, and never apply them directly to blossoms. In fact, if you live in Europe, it’s not allowed anymore.
If you absolutely must use pesticides, use targeted ones that are designed for specific species. For example, Bt is lethal to caterpillars, but won’t harm bees.
This article is written by Tiberiu Iavorenciu, when he's not on a fishing trip, he is working passionately on growing his two businesses, TypingPandas and EasyLinkStudio. He has been growing his two "babies" for more than five years now and hopes that one day he will be take at least one of them to the Fortune 500 list.