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.

 

Native Bees

 

 

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.

bumblebee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

mason bee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

mining bee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Insect House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

bee habitat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

bee hives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Daisies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

crocus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flowers Preferred by Bees

 

sunflower

Sunflower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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
  • Hyssop

 

 

Vegetables Preferred by Bees

 

pumpkin blossom

Pumpkin Blossom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These following vegetables are known to be favorites:

 

  • Artichoke
  • beans
  • cucumbers
  • peas
  • squash
  • pumpkins

 

 

Herbs Preferred by Bees

 

echinacea

Echinacea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following herbs are favorites:

 

  • Basil
  • Catnip
  • Comfrey
  • Coriander
  • Dandelion
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Lavender
  • Clover
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Marjoram
  • Globe Thistle

 

 

Fruits Preferred by Bees

 

bee pollinating an apricot tree

Apricot tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following fruits will attract native bees:

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Blackberry
  • Blueberry
  • Cranberry
  • Currant
  • Melon
  • Rasberry
  • Strawberry
  • Citrus
  • Plums
  • Pears

 

 

Attracting bees can be beneficial to your garden and can help save the 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.

 

 

This post has been shared at Good Morning Mondays Link party and on the Homestead Bloggers Network.