Say thank you to those bumbling, fuzzy, pollen enthusiasts we love so much…bees! By planting flowers that attract bees, we can help them get enough food and energy to keep on pollinating our plants. Create a bee garden using these flowers, projects, and tips you can easily do at home.
Do you have fruit trees that used to do well but are no longer producing much or any fruit? Perhaps your vegetable garden isn’t as lush as it once was, with fewer vegetables or smaller, misshapen ones. Before you dig out the fertilizer or give up altogether, call in the air force: bees.
Attracting bees to the garden is like hiring a workforce of full-time gardeners to help produce the strongest, most beautiful plants and healthiest vegetables.
These hardworking insects, along with other pollinators, are the smartest thing you can cultivate in your garden because they will do much of the work for you. Follow these simple steps to create your own bee-friendly garden.
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Why We Should Attract Bees to the Garden
Gardeners all know bees as pollinators, but very few of us realize how much we rely on them to get some of our basic fruits and vegetables. Out of the 100 major food crops in the USA, bees pollinate 70 of them.
We rely on bees to get strawberries, blueberries, apples, grapes, peaches, pumpkins, cucumbers, broccoli, onions, carrots, cashews, almonds, and so much more. Through pollination, bees carry the pollen grains from male to female plants to fertilize the plant and develop seeds. Without the bees, we wouldn’t have seeds for any of these plants!
Planting flowers for bees allows us to help the little insects flying around the neighbourhood and their mission to pollinate our plants. To really get ahead on how to help the bees, you can start by identifying the types of bees that visit your garden and their specific needs.
What Bee-Friendly Plants Should I Grow?
The first step is to choose flowers that attract bees and plant them in a sunny spot. There are so many varieties out there of flowering plants that bees love, and they differ between climates.
One way you can figure out what plants to choose for your garden is to visit a nursery and look for the bees. Observe which plants they are buzzing around at the garden center and bring a bunch of them home.
And here is another tip: it’s better to plant a number of the same plants than many different varieties as bees are attracted to larger expanses of one kind of flower.
To quickly create an instant bee garden in your yard, purchase an annual bee wildflower seed mix and spread them around your garden. The seeds in bee mixes are chosen because bees love them, but also because they bloom in succession. Scatter the seeds in the perennial garden or in a few pots to set around the garden, and they will keep the bees happy all summer long.
The Best Flowers for Bees
These are a few tried and true flowers that bees love that can be easily found and planted across most zones. Make sure to select flowers for every season so that bees have access to food from early spring to late fall.
Annual Flowers for Bees
Perennials that Attract Bees
Make a Bee Bath
Creating a bee-friendly garden means more than just planting bee-friendly plants. You certainly want to attract them with gorgeous blooms, but while they are in your garden you will want to give them a place to drink. It’s easy to make a simple bee water feeder that looks nice in the garden.
Add rocks to a shallow dish or bowl so that they sit above clean water to give the bees a place to perch. If you have a problem with aphids, the water will attract beneficial insects so place the dish near the plant with the aphid problem to help them wash down the feast!
See this post for detailed instructions on how to make a bee bath.
Make a Bee House
To attract beneficial wild bees to your garden, give them a place to nest and breed. A bug hotel is a place for solitary insects like solitary bees, solitary wasps, ladybugs, lacewings, and more to overwinter.
You won’t have to worry about it becoming a hornets’ nest though, as the hornets, yellow jackets, and wasps that are usually a nuisance in the summer build their own hives somewhere near your house (here is a wasp trap that might help in that case).
A bug hotel is a place for wild, solitary, beneficial insects. You can make your own by filling a wood box with rolls of paper or hollow reeds, or buy one that looks as beautiful as it is functional. Read more about bug hotels here.
Don’t Sting Me!
Bees often get a bad reputation for being confused with wasps. Bees are gentle creatures that only sting to defend themselves from harm such as being grabbed or trampled. Wasps can be a bit more aggressive, but even so, unless you provoke them, they won’t start attacking you.
Bees and wasps don’t get angry, they simply defend themselves. Show them respect and care, and you should not get stung.
I saw this honeybee swarm at UBC Farm and it was quite a sight to see! And hear. The buzzing was like music. And while this many bees might be frightening to some, these little workers are gentle creatures just looking for a new home.
Bees swarm when they outgrow the hive or there is something wrong with it. Usually, a thriving hive will get quite large and create a new queen. The new queen bee leaves the colony with a large group of worker bees.
If you see a swarm like this in your garden, get in touch with your local beekeeping association. They will have the resources to help find these bees a home.
Be Careful Where You Dig
If you have ever woken up a sleepy bumblebee in your garden, you know that many of them bury themselves in the ground for the winter. Believe it or not, most bees are ground bees—over 70% of all species of bees nest underground in conical-shaped mounds in the soil.
In the spring, they wake up and groggily fly around and start pollinating all of the early fruit crops. So, if you want fruit in the summer, then roll out the red carpet for the ground bees (and watch where you dig).
Avoid Pesticides, Protect the Bees
It goes without saying that an organic garden is better for bees. Using pesticides in your garden will only continue to hurt the bee population and kill the pollinators that will help you grow healthy, strong plants. If you would like some pesticide-free pest control ideas, try this natural pest control spray or opt for companion planting.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bee Gardens
Bumblebees do sting, though will only do so when provoked. If you see a bee nearby, it buzzes past you, or is visiting a nearby flower, you’re completely safe.
The only way bees will sting you is if they feel threatened. Avoid touching the bees, their hive, or waving your arms by them.
For the most part, they are just happy to bumble alongside you in the garden.
If you find a hive in your yard and would like to relocate it, call your local beekeeping society or wildlife non-profit. They will safely remove the hive and get it a new home.
It’s important to have flowers from early spring through to late fall as this will provide food for the bees. Early season flowers include lilacs, lungwort, peony, ajuga, bellflower, alliums, and honeysuckle.
In the summer, you can plant agastache, borage, bergamot, calendula, cornflowers, foxglove, sunflowers, and dahlias. Late season flowers include echinacea, mums, asters, goldenrod, bee balm, and sedum.
Bees and butterflies will land on just about anything they can get their hands on. For butterflies, you also want to plant their host plants for the caterpillars. For instance, monarchs need milkweed. For flowers, some favourites include hollyhock, phlox, lavender, false indigo, daylilies, catmint, butterfly bush, and black-eyed Susan.