Ready to start a competition with your neighbors and encourage VIPs (very important pollinators)?
You can easily adapt your aging-in-place garden to host some of the 4000 species of our native bees.
You may have heard about bee colony collapse disorder (BCCD), that affects honeybees. In BCCD, most of the worker bees disappear, leaving the queen, bees which have not hatched, and readily available honey and pollen for food.
Commercial agriculture depends on honeybees to pollinate crops. In fact, that there are businesses that load up hives of bees and truck them around the country to place them where needed when crops are in bloom.
Wait! I’m not suggesting that you put a bee hive in your yard to counteract colony collapse.
For one thing, honeybees are not native to North America, and our native plants don’t rely on them for pollination. Instead, native plants rely on some of the 4000 species of bees that are native here. That includes the plants that yielded those wild blueberries you put in your smoothie this morning.
What about stings? Native bees rarely sting gardeners, and if they do the sting is mild. Some native bees have tiny stingers and can’t get through our tough human skin to sting!
Here’s how to take simple steps to encourage native bees in your garden. Learn about bees and take time to observe them carefully when they are in your yard. With just the right plantings, they will be close enough to watch, unlike many birds.
1. Leave some bare earth in sunny spots here and there. It doesn’t have to be much, even an open space between shrubs or perennials in a flower bed is perfect. This is for bees that are miners. Yes, they dig tunnels for nesting and raising young bees.
2. Change your lawn care practices to allow small flowers, even what we’d call “weeds,” to grow in it. Clover and dandelions are loved by bees. Or reduce the lawn’s size and allow designated areas to become wildflower meadows for bees as well as butterflies.
3. If you have already updated your garden to trees, shrubs and ground covers, Elderyarding® style, use containers of native flowering plants to provide nectar for bees and bring them a bit closer to watch.
4. Add flowering herbs. Blooming herbs like thyme and borage are beloved by our bees.
5. Like butterflies, bees are interested in muddy spots where they can get moisture and minerals from the soil. Let a little wallow develop next to a faucet or birdbath. Get creative in displaying this as a deliberate part of the design in your garden. Edge it with stones, or use a concrete downspout splash set level with soil in the bottom that muddies when wet.
Our native bees will forage for nectar in many places, especially those that are a bit wild and support native plants.
What you are doing with a bee-friendly yard is helping them find places to live, not just fly through.
Want to learn more? A great publication from the Forest Service, US Department of Agriculture, can be found here.
Related blog posts you might enjoy:
Making room for critters in your Elderyarding® garden
Why hummingbird moths can be good for your aging brain