We all know the plight of bees, yet how do we truly help them thrive? Here’s how I see a constant stream of native bees for the perfect bee-friendly garden and yard.
9 Tips for the Perfect Bee-Friendly Garden
1. No Pesticides, Please!
No list for a bee-friendly garden or yard is complete without this life-saving warning about pesticides. Pesticides are the #1 reason all our pollinators suffer, followed closely by habitat loss.
You can help with these dire situations and help our precious pollinators survive in your yard. Passing on your knowledge to others can help, too, as some people don’t realize the impact they can have.
Pesticides are a certain death sentence to not only bees but other beneficial insects and pollinators as well. They can also have an unfortunate trickle effect by harming the birds, rodents, and other small mammals that eat them.
Depending on the type of pesticide used, it can have a large-scale effect on the larger birds or mammals that eat these smaller birds or mammals.
Not to mention the complete unsafety it can bring to our pets and children!
I have written several articles on how to have a thriving garden WITHOUT pesticides. The natural cycle of life in your gardens, complete with proper plant placement and selection, will take care of itself. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes in my own yard!
If you truly do need to step in for a complete infestation, there are many alternatives to pesticides. Going pesticide-free is your true first step to a bee-friendly garden!
2. Have a Wide Variety of (Mostly Native) Flowers
I know some of you are reading this right now just shaking your head at me, for you believe in ONLY native flowers. I agree, but I also see how some bees completely flock to my non-spreading butterfly bush.
So I compromise and have about 90-95% native plants and flowers for my area. Maybe even more than that!
There are many reasons. First, native means the flowers that grow naturally, year after year, where you live. There are many helpful websites to help you determine the best types of flowers and plants for your location.
Native plants are not only stronger and more disease-free than non-natives, but they are the most helpful to your local insect, bird, and overall wildlife population.
The same goes for a bee-friendly garden. Native bees will almost always prefer native flowers over non-native ones. It gives them exactly what they need for survival, so having almost all native flowers will be the most beneficial thing you can do to nourish your native bees.
Don’t forget that bees also love flowers from vegetable plants, herbs, and fruits!
3. Have Groups of Flowers
Most creatures that get nourishment from flowers, such as bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, etc., do appreciate it when they are in groups.
It will benefit them and greatly enhance your bee-friendly garden.
Having different kinds of pollinator-attracting flowers grouped provides a steady stream of food for them without the extra work. It also helps ward off fighting others for one flower.
If a bee has to fly across your entire yard for one flower, then fly halfway across it for a different one, that defeats the purpose, and bees and other pollinators will go elsewhere.
A good rule of thumb is one square yard of the same plant together. Having several different kinds is the best thing you can have in your yard; it’s a great foraging habitat for bees and other pollinators.
4. Provide Fresh Source of Water
For a bee-friendly garden, water is paramount.
Water is paramount to all living creatures. Help them get the hydration they need by offering birdbaths with a rock in the center, any backyard waterfall, or even plants like broccoli, the Cup Plant, kale, and cabbage. The large leaves of the vegetables listed will collect morning dew, and the Cup Plant will literally cup small pools of water near the stems for them.
Peat soil in freshly-potted plants also holds high moisture levels for bees and may become a favorite destination.
5. Appreciate the “Weeds”
Most flowering weeds are a bee’s first food source when they “wake up” after the winter months.
Flowers like dandelions, henbit (you’d know it if you saw it!), clover, wild violets, and bluets are some of the first to bloom, usually way before our perennials do, so they are essential not only to the life of a bee but other early pollinators as well.
Later in the season, plants like milkweed, goldenrod, chickweed, and creeping thyme can offer a bee vital nourishment, not to mention other important pollinators and even birds.
Milkweed is also vital for the life of a Monarch butterfly, but that’s for a different article! 🙂
6. Let Your Plants Flower
It is so tempting to cut flowers from your plants to bring inside for all of those pretty vases you bought! May I suggest going to a farm specialized for cutting flowers so that yours may grow for the bees?
Flowers must be left on the plant long enough to provide bees and other pollinators with the necessary pollen and nectar.
How long is long enough? Until you need to deadhead them.
Also, if you have vegetables growing that you haven’t harvested and don’t plan to, please leave some of them to flower for a true bee-friendly garden.
I know someone who saw firsthand the importance of this; she left broccoli to flower and watched the bees feed off of that when there was nothing else left for them in her yard; I’ve also seen this with Goldenrod!
Also, if you have room for a small (or large!) area with wildflowers instead of grass, your yard will be gorgeous and help pollinators and birds immensely!
7. Pick Plants With Varying Blooming Cycles
By picking plants that flower all year round, some flower in the spring, while others bloom in the late summer, this is vital for our bees!
Or, you can choose plants with successive blooms (those that flower all season long, often powered by deadheading).
Search your gardening zone and find plants that bloom at different times or all season long in your area. This is also a great bonus for us, as we can enjoy the beauty of flowers for months!
8. Plant Some Flowering Trees
Who doesn’t love those gorgeous flower trees in the spring!?
The bees also love them, as they can provide more vital food for them early in the season.
Fruit trees like plums, crabapples, pears, peaches, and apples are all great sources. American Basswood, Magnolia, Locust, Red Bud, Serviceberry, and the Tulip tree are also great for bees. Maple, Willow, and Sumac are also good food sources for them.
All these trees will also provide vital nourishment for birds and other pollinators, and beauty (and even fruit!) for you. As the trees grow, they will provide shade and places for birds to nest.
If you’ve ever seen a swarm of honeybees, you’ll see that they often like to rest in trees before moving on, so they could be used for that as well. These trees are part of a bee-friendly garden!
9. Leave Them Alone
Bees are generally docile insects, so it’s best to leave them alone. I’ve sat on my back deck for hours, watching the bees and butterflies fly from flower to flower, passing me by like I wasn’t even there.
They do NOT want to sting us; in most cases, doing so would only harm the bee. Their mission is to find nourishment for themselves and their hive-mates and produce the next generation.
They truly do not want to harm us.
It’s also important to note that there are many more species of bees than your honey or bumble bee; there are over 20,000 species! And they all need our help!
So allow them to inhabit your yard and gardens, and be rewarded with not only more flowers and vegetables or fruit but to allow them to flourish and help their conservation.
How have you helped the bees in your yard? Please do share with me below how you’ve created your bee-friendly garden or yard; I’d love to hear about it! 🙂