It’s never too early to start planning your Spring garden. Thoughts of fragrant flowers filling your yard can be a welcome distraction from the cold windy months of Winter. Here are a few ways you can turn your backyard into a bee haven.
1. Mow Less — Leave Wild Places
Get off that mower! Want an excuse to mow a little less? If you live in an area where cutting the grass to a certain height isn’t a requirement, next time you can say you’re having a BBQ instead…….and doing it for the bees! Leaving some space between the edge of the lawn and flower areas is a plus, bees enjoy a little wild space. And most are ground nesters so check to make sure there aren’t existing nests that could be destroyed before you mow.
2. Plants — Re-Introduce Native Wildflowers and Bee Friendly Shrubs
Even a small native wildflower strip (or patch) can do bees a world of good. And it doesn’t just benefit them. Hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators like hoverflies, are attracted to these plants too.
Keep it vibrant; bees thrive on biodiversity. When planning, try to include plants of different shapes and colors. Consider their bloom length and season.
Don’t have space for a wildflower garden? Hedges and flowering trees can also be a boon to the bee population. Not only are they more cost-effective for us than flowers, but they can provide more food in a smaller area which is easier on the bees. Interestingly, they use them as landmarks while navigating from foraging ground to hive and back. Plus, they can nest in them overwinter or briefly shelter during a rainstorm. New machine learning algorithms are helping calculate the most effective places to plant.
Looking for some inspiration for your new bee garden? Here are some natives to get you started:
Sunflowers – There’s a good chance that Sunflower pollen could help reduce infections in bees by certain pathogens, so if you have the space don’t hesitate to add a few of these classic beauties.
And don’t leave out the fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
Artichoke and Cardoon
Summer and Winter Squash
3. Pesticides And Herbicides — You Don’t Need Them
Say no to Roundup and other insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides. Especially ones that contain glyphosate, chlorothalonil, or imidacloprid. They can kill bees by reducing their ability to fight infection and metabolize what beekeepers feed them to fend off hive destroying mites. Then there is this disturbing news: research shows the more insecticide they eat, the more they like it — and it can cause them to lose their taste altogether. Insecticides have a negative impact on all pollinators, including hummingbirds.
One alternative: use essential oil blends as bug repellents. A downside is that some could keep the bees away too! But at least they won’t be harmed by them!
A few to experiment with:
Some are more effective against certain insects than others so it is important to know which you are targeting. And remember, spiders are an asset to your garden, so leave them alone.
Stink Bugs: Garlic powder mixed with water can help keep them away, but you might have to just pick them off.
4. Build A Bee Nesting Box — And Other Nesting Hot Spots
A nesting box: you can buy one, or if you’re crafty, make it yourself. They can be a visually attractive fixture in your garden while providing a safe home for bees.
The usefulness of boxes is debatable; some have had great deal of success with them, while others have had none at all. Location can be important. The best place to put it varies from region to region and country to country, so if bees don’t seem to be using it in the spot you chose, move it around.
Hanging boxes are common, but remember, many bees like to live underground, so don’t forget to incorporate below ground hives into your plans! Even though rodents can be a pest, bees will take over abandoned burrows and use them as nests.
You might want to consider leaving a dead log in a garden corner or turning it into a focal point. Why? Some like living in trees, dead or alive. This can create an easy place for them to nest. Small mounds of twigs and other debris can be appealing too.
You can check out bumblebee.org for more ideas.
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