Savvy gardeners know that bees play a vital role in both their flower and vegetable gardens. Bees carry pollen from one plant to another which allows for a variety of plant activities that include reproducing new plants, extended flowering, or setting fruit. Gardens that do not attract a sufficient number of pollinators may become less productive. Fortunately, attracting pollinators is quite easy. We’re going to discuss how to attract bees to your garden in four simple ways.
PLANT FLOWERS THE BEES LOVE
The simplest — and most attractive — way to attract bees to your garden is to plant flowers bees love. For most gardeners this is a pleasant activity because the flowers bees love most, we humans love, too. Bees are drawn to bright colors and pleasant fragrances just like we are. So creating a spot of beautiful, eye-catching color in our personal landscape also sends an open invitation for pollinators to come visit.
Many flowers rely on pollinators for propagation of their species. Which means flowers have developed many special features to lure the bees their way. From their color and shape, their scents, and even the patterns on their petals, flowers are a shoo-in for attracting bees to your gardens.
Every planting zone will have different bee-loving specimens, but here is a list of a few common, easy to find and grow “bee favorites” that thrive in a large range of areas:
There are a two important things to keep in mind when picking out your bee-attracting flowers:
- Avoid purchasing flowers that have been sprayed with any chemical pesticides and herbicides. Be especially careful to avoid plants treated with neonicotinoid, a chemical that has been linked to bee colony collapse. Otherwise you are basically attracting the bees to a “poisoned punch” which will cause long-term harm. The best bet is to buy only untreated flowers or start your own plants from organic seeds.
- Avoid purchasing hybridized flowers. While such plants will not directly harm the bees like pesticides, hybridized plants are generally bred so they produce little to no nectar or pollen. If the flowers planted provide no nutrients, they will not attract bees to your garden.
CONSIDER LARGER BEE-FRIENDLY SHRUBS AND TREES
Have you ever walked under a blossoming tree that was filled with buzzing bees? It’s quite an amazing experience. And all that buzzing is a good thing. It’s a sign of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of bees collecting pollen and finding nectar all in one place. So if you’re very serious about attracting (and thereby helping!) lots of bees to your garden, flowering shrubs and trees will do the trick.
Again, different climate zones will support different kinds of bee-friendly shrubs and trees, but here are few ideas for relatively common shrubs and trees to consider:
One of the benefits of using trees and shrubs to attract bees to your garden is that many bloom early or late in the growing season. This provides nutrients for pollinators before and after peak flower blooming season. This will help keep your garden buzzing with helpful pollinators for a longer span of the year.
PROVIDE A WATER SOURCE
Like all living things, bees need water. Providing clean drinking water for the pollinators will help attract more of them to your garden. But putting out water for the bees isn’t quite as simple as putting out a big bowl of water. Because of their size and inability to get out of water easily if they become immersed, bees need a little special consideration.
The best “bee ponds” are shallow and provide ample dry landing spaces for the bees. This can be accomplished using a shallow dish and some rocks and twigs that protrude above the water line. The bees will land on the dry materials and walk to the edge of the water to drink. Bee ponds can add a decorative touch to your garden if made using a pretty dish and colorful pebbles or glass “stones.”
Be sure to check your “bee pond” regularly. Rain water may overfill it and cause a drowning hazard for thirsty pollinators if the rocks and/or twigs become submerged. Conversely, the container may need to be refilled during dry spells. Periodically you will want to empty the container entirely to keep it clean and to stop the growth of mosquito larva.
What gardener doesn’t like the idea of weeding less? Many might think it’s a crazy suggestion, but you can actually help attract bees to your garden simply by not over-weeding. Remember, what you consider a weed the bees may consider a food source.
Although many gardeners disdain them, dandelions are one example of a weed that provides vital, early spring sustenance for pollinators. By leaving these little yellow invaders in place until other nectar-providing blooms appear, you are doing a great deal to support the bees. They will repay your kindness by pollinating your garden plants throughout the growing season.
KEEPING THINGS BUZZING
The four steps listed show the simplicity of how to attract bees to your garden. Choosing flowers, shrubs, and trees that attract and nourish pollinators will help not only your garden but the overall environment as well. Being careful to avoid harmful pesticides and limiting the use of hybridized plants will keep the bees you attract healthy and supported. Providing a simple, shallow “bee pond” will make sure your pollinators don’t have to stray far to find water. And, finally, weeding a little less will make a little less work for you while providing some extra incentive for the bees to visit.
Bee-conscious gardening is more vital to the welfare of our pollinators than ever before. It’s very easy for any gardener to be a part of the solution. If we’re going to have a garden anyway, we might as well make it Bee Friendly so we can keep the bees buzzing into the future.