In this article we cover 3 easy ways to bring bees into your garden: food, water and shelter.
While it may not always seem like it, there are a lot of perks to having honey bees buzzing around your garden. They act as pollinators, bringing your entire yard to life, and of course, they make honey. There are a bunch of different ways you can attract these insects.
Many people find bees to be annoying, particularly when they’re out in their yard trying to accomplish a task and the bees keep swarming and ‘threatening’ them. While bees can definitely sting, it’s important to note that they carry many benefits for the outdoor world, and we shouldn’t interfere with their presence in our yards and gardens. Although we should always be cautious, the benefits of having bees around way outnumber the threats involved.
Rather than be fearful and try to get rid of bees, it would be prudent to grow a bee-friendly garden that welcomes them in. With some planning, you can organise your garden to attract bees to certain areas of the yard. That way, the bees are out of your way but you can still enjoy the benefits of having bees around.
Why We Need Bees
There are so many aspects that are important for keeping our garden healthy and flourishing. From fertilizers to picking the right plants, and getting the right balance of temperature and moisture, everything has to be done in perfect harmony to produce the results that we want. But why are bees in the garden so important?
Bees make honey
We know that bees make delicious honey, and if you decide to take the next step into bee-keeping, this is probably the main reason you want to attract bees into your yard. However, bees rely on our flowering gardens to get the nectar and pollen to make that honey. As bees go around collecting pollen, they also pollinate the flowers, which ties into the next point.
Bee are pollinators
Just like you learned in your 6th-grade science class, bees are pollinators. That means that plants, animals, and humans depend heavily on bees to help plants reproduce. Most of the food we as humans eat comes from plants that are dependent upon pollination: nuts, fruits, vegetables, and seeds to name a few. What better benefit for a garden than to create an environment where bees are plentiful to help with this process!
Each time the bees pollinate the flowers it means that the plants will grow and flourish even more. This makes our gardens stronger and full of vitality. Plants and bees work together to produce healthy food for everyone. Bees work hard to stop at each and every flower no matter how many hours it takes. That’s like having free farmhands working in your garden all day every day — what a bargain.
1. Food: Plants for attracting bees
To attract bees to your garden, you can start by providing some bee food: either nectar or pollen are the two they love. Choose plants for your gardens that flower year round so there’s always pollen available. As a rule of thumb, the best pollen plants are those that aren’t so pleasing to the human eye. Plant these flowers in less frequently accessed parts of your yard if you don’t want to be bothered by bees as you move about your garden.
Make sure that you plant things that bees like such as basil, cilantro, fruit trees, dogwoods, aster, impatiens, and plants that have certain colors like purple, yellow, white, and blue. Take care to plant things that will flower at different times of the season so you will have bees throughout the year until fall. Honey bees are attracted to such plants and will come often to pollinate.
Plant flowers that are native to your area.
It’s a known fact that bees respond best to flowers that they’re accustomed to, so start growing plants that are native to your environment. If you’re unsure what flowers are from your area, head down to your local nursery. The workers there will be more than happy to fill you in on what flowers you should grow. If that doesn’t work for you, you can always do some research of your own online before ordering seeds.
Plant flowers with single pedals.
If you want to attract honey bees, it’s best you grow flowers with a single row of petals, instead of ones with more than one row. That’s because single-petaled flowers contain more pollen than any other flowers, making them perfect for hungry honey bees. Not only that, though. When flowers have single petals, the bees can reach the pollen much easier.
Plant white, yellow, purple, and blue flowers.
Bees like bright colors, so choose flowers that are showy and plant them in clumps so bees will see them more than if they were scattered amongst many colors. Flowers that are white, yellow, purple, and blue will draw in honey bees more than ones that are pink, orange, and red. Of course, your garden doesn’t have to be made up of only those colors, but having a bunch of flowers with those shades will definitely help bring in those honey bees.
Plant flowers that bloom over time.
Even though you may want to plant flowers that bloom all at the same time, don’t. When you do that, the honey bees will quickly come to your garden, eat up all the food and then leave for good. If you plant flowers that bloom in sequence, the honey bees will have plenty of food to last throughout the seasons, giving them a reason to continue visiting your garden.
Grow flowering vegetable and fruit plants.
Fruit trees, as well as berries, squash, melons, and cucumbers, have a tendency of developing fragrant flowers that actually attract honey bees to your garden. Besides the flowers that grow off these plants and trees, the honey bees are drawn to the fruit itself.
2. Water: Create a Bee Bath
Another thing you can do is make a bee bath with fresh drinking water, sort of like a bird bath but much smaller and with little ‘landing pads’ for the bees. Make a bee bath by taking a shallow bowl and placing a few big rocks in it. Add the water, but don’t cover up the little rock islands since those will be used by the bees as spots to land. Place the bath on the ground, perhaps next to your bee house. Change out the water every day to keep them healthy. Alternatively, you can use an existing pond or dam, adding landing pads to it if it doesn’t already, so the bees can easily land for their drink.
3. Shelter: Build a Bee House
If you are into having bees on your property, you can create little places for them to build their hives in. If you choose to do this, put them in a location that is far enough that you won’t be harmed by the bees. We want to keep them away from the house and outside where they belong. By creating a healthy outdoor habitat we encourage bees (as well as other insects) to stay out of the house and domestic areas. Bees don’t necessarily want to form nests in your attic, but they will if it’s the best spot around that they’ve found.
To create a bee house, you’ll want to make a gallon sized house out of wood scraps or something waterproof. Paint it a bright color to attract the bees attention. Fill the box with store-bought nesting tubes for bees, and then hang the bee house somewhere out of the rain. It may take some time for the bees to find their new home, but they will find it after about a year.
Alternatively, if you are interested in learning bee-keeping and making honey, you could purchase or build a carefully designed bee box for this purpose. There are many detailed instruction books, websites and videos on bee-keeping techniques so we won’t go into detail here. If you’re curious and want a quick overview of the honey extraction process, check out our article Extracting Honey From A Hive.
With a little effort on your part, you can create a welcoming environment for bees in your garden, and with no added gardening effort on your part, it’s likely that you’ll yield three times what you have in the past. Nature amazingly takes care of itself, and we can all benefit from that. You share your garden with the bees and the bees will pollinate your garden (and maybe share some honey with you), and the world keeps on spinning.