The buzz of America’s bees is dwindling. Populations of the striped insect responsible for most of the world’s food supply are rapidly declining, in part due to diminished native plant species and harmful pesticides. However, you can help lessen the sting of pollinator loss from your own home through easy actions that turn your yards and gardens into a haven for busy little bees. Here are five tips to make the bees’ needs the bee’s knees:
Plant a variety of native species.
Keep it local by filling your yard with plants native to your region, meaning they grow and exist there naturally and were not transplanted by people. This is crucial to bees because they specialize in the pollen their respective native plants provide, ensuring they and their young have enough to survive. Bees dependent on a certain kind of pollen can’t acquire it from non-native plants, so planting native species will bolster native bee communities. You can consult your local garden center or your state’s Native Plant Society. Make sure to have a diverse selection not overcrowded by a few particular species to attract a variety of pollinators.
Plant flowers that bloom at different times of year.
Bees love flowers, especially those with purple, yellow, blue, white and violet colors. However, don’t just plant based on color. It’s also vital to select species with different bloom times so bees always have flowers to visit. Consider a combination of annuals and perennials to get a variety of bloom times. Some of the best annuals and perennials to use include marigold and sunflower, and aster and coneflower, respectively.
Create ‘bee hotels.’
Bees’ busy lives call for some rest, and building shelters for them is quite simple. Like a birdhouse, you can construct bee houses from wood and materials easily found at craft, hobby and home improvement stores or at home. Once the frame is built, fill in the space with tubular, hollow materials with clear entrance holes, such as cardboard tubes, hollow stalks and wood blocks with drilled holes. Optimal holes are a half inch in diameter and six inches long. This is where the bees will nest, and they need room to move, take off and land. Use multiple nesting materials to diversify your hotel’s guests.
Avoid using pesticides when gardening.
The easiest way to help bees is by avoiding toxic chemicals that harm them. Try eliminating pesticides in your yards and garden, leaving nature to thrive without interference. Visiting pollinators will be free of danger, frequently returning thanks to a healthier environment and fewer chemical threats. Less pesticide use also means less toxic runoff in waterways. If pest control is necessary, you can use natural or homemade deterrents, such as those derived from vegetables or soap.
Bees’ small size makes them susceptible to strong wind. You can prevent this by creating windbreaks around plants and bee houses, using porous materials or objects like netting, mesh and screens. Windbreaks should be placed about 4 to 6 feet behind the plants or bee house to compensate for stronger prevailing winds.
Each action will greatly improve your yard or garden’s ability to attract bountiful bees and give them a healthy habitat in which to thrive. These crucial critters will return the favor simply by doing their work, resulting in lively biodiversity, gorgeous flowers and important food crops. Whether performing one or all of the above efforts, you can “bee” kind to the fuzzy little insects that give the world so much beauty.
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Bee-friendly garden kit
Make your garden a welcoming habitat for your neighborhood bees with this lovely, all-zones appropriate bee-friendly garden kit. A great way to let everyone know that you avoid pesticides and grow flowering plants to support our hard-working pollinators!
Senior Director, Conservation America Campaign, Environment America
Steve directs Environment America’s efforts to protect our public lands and waters and the species that depend on them. He led our successful campaign to win full and permanent funding for our nation’s best conservation and recreation program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund. He previously oversaw U.S. PIRG’s public health campaigns. Steve lives in Sacramento, California, with his family, where he enjoys biking and exploring Northern California.
Former Digital Campaign Associate, Environment America