Are you attracting bees to your garden? We all should be doing our part to save these creatures since they are in steep decline over the recent years. Bees are one of the most important little creatures on our planet.
They are needed for our survival almost as much as water. The Xerces Society, a non-profit wildlife group, says that 1 in 3 mouthfuls of our food and drink require bees. So with that in mind, it might be a good idea to do your part of start attracting bees to your garden.
There are over 4,000 species of bees of bees native to North America. 70% of these bees are ground nesters and 30% are wood nesters. Almost all native bees live alone, not in colonies as you may think.
The native bees pollinate more efficiently than honeybees. There are more than 150 food crops in the United States that are pollinated by bees alone. Tomatoes will bear larger fruit because the larger bumble bees will shake more pollen than the wind can. Pumpkins and squash also prosper better by bee pollination.
Why do bees pollinate our plants? Nectar is sugar to the bees. And sugar is the main source of energy. The pollen provides the necessary protein and fats that bees need. So it is simple. The bees help the flowers and the flowers help the bees.
Types of Native Bees
Bumblebees: These are the largest of the native bees. They make their nest in the ground or in trees. Bumblebees are considered very social.
Mason Bees: Also called “orchard bees”, these creatures are usually black, metallic blue, or green. Mason bees use mud to pack their eggs into hollow branches. They will easily adapt into a man-made nesting box. These bees usually emerge in the early spring.
Mining Bees: Mining bees look like a skinnier version of the honey bee, but have longer wings. They are ground nesters. These bees are known best for pollinating fruit trees and emerge early in the year.
Squash Bees: These small bees are black and yellow and are most commonly found pollinating cucumbers, squash and pumpkin blossoms. They are also ground nesters and they emerge in early summer.
Sweat Bees: It is easy to identify these bees by how small they are and by their metallic backs. These bees live alone and emerge early and late in the year.
Making a Habitat for Attracting Bees
There are a few ways to make a habitat, or nesting site, for the bees. One way is to build a simple wooden frame, filling the inside with dirt or sand, and placing a few rotted logs on top. Placing this structure close to pollinating plants will help.
Another option for a bee habitat is to drill holes on the south facing side of a log, stump, or fencepost. The holes can be of various sizes ranging from 3/32 to 5/6 of an inch in diameter. Just make sure you drill the holes at an angle so water can’t run into the bottom. Mason bees and other wood nesting bees prefer this habitat.
A third option is an insect hotel. The is an upright rectangular box filled with hollow bamboo sticks. A lot of conservation sites use these types of boxes to attract bees.
Another option is by using stacked pallets and placing logs throughout the structure with holes drilled in them. This is like a larger version and slightly more natural than an insect hotel.
The last option requires a more expensive endeavor and that is to start beehives or houses in your back yard. This is becoming a more popular trend as of lately.
Keep in mind when placing a bee habitat that the female will usually nest within 1,000 feet of the flowers that they will pollinate. Bees also prefer the sun over shade and minimal wind.
Plant Choices for Attracting Bees
There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing what plants to grow when attracting bees. Native bees prefer native plants.
They also prefer flowers with single rows of petals. This is because they can more easily pollinate a flower without having to get around too many petals. Also, flowers with a single row of petals provide more nectar for the bees.
Color also makes a difference to the bees. Bees seem to be more attracted to the flowers that are blue, purple, yellow and white over other colors.
Flowers Preferred by Bees
The following flowers are preferred by native bees:
- Bachelor Button Coreopsis
- Cosmos Echinacea
- Larkspur Foxglove
- Poppy Hollyhock
- Sunflower Lambs Ear
- Zinnia Bee Balm
- Alyssum Alliums
- Aster Russian Sage
- Geranium Cotton
- Poppies Rhododendron
- Clover Willow
- Lupine Wild Lilac
- Yarrow Black Eyed Susan
Vegetables Preferred by Bees
These following vegetables are known to be favorites:
Herbs Preferred by Bees
The following herbs are favorites:
- Globe Thistle
Fruits Preferred by Bees
The following fruits will attract native bees:
Knowing more about native bees and their habitats, and understanding what plants that bees are attracted to, you can now start attracting bees to your garden.
If every gardener provided a flourishing environment for the bees, just think how much we could help restore their population again. If you are interested in more detailed information about bees, click here.