These days, more and more people fret over the fate of wolves, whales, tigers, and other endangered animals. While any decline in the numbers of these endangered species should be cause for worry, we should not forget that insect populations are also dwindling.
In many ways, in fact, dwindling insect populations – bees, in particular – is an even more immediate threat to humanity.
Inviting Bees into Your Garden
Researchers claim that the disappearance of bees and other insects could trigger a catastrophic collapse of the ecosystems on which we depend for food.
You can help revive bee populations by re-thinking the way you garden. Below are a few tips to help you get started on a bee garden.
Don’t use chemical pesticides.
Do not use chemical pesticides. These products kill indiscriminately. They will kill bees, as well. Ladybugs, spiders, and praying mantises will naturally keep pest populations in check. If you truly need a pesticide in your garden, use a natural product made from microbes or plant derivatives and apply after sundown.
Grow a variety of plants.
We’ve often heard that variety is the spice of life. The saying holds true for bees, too. In general, bees need two kinds of plants: those that provide nectar; and plants that provide pollen.
Bee gardens that use 10 or more species of bee-preferred plants attract more bees. The insects will even visit less attractive plants in these gardens while they are there.
Grow native plants.
Research suggests native plants are four times more attractive to native bees than exotic flowers and hybrids. They are also usually well-adapted to your growing conditions and will thrive with little attention. Heirloom varieties of herbs and perennials can also provide good foraging for bees.
Grow flowers in clumps.
You should try to grow flowers in large patches of like varieties to allow bees to feed in one spot for long periods of time. Gardens with scattered plants do not attract as many visits. That is because bees expend too much energy flying between locations in such arrangements.
Plan for season-round blossoms.
Plants that are not native to your area will also attract bees as long as you pick the correct varieties. Bees are attracted to an abundance of color. To provide bees with a constant source of food, grow a diversity of plants for season-round blossoms.
For instance, you can plant crocus, lavender, and borage for their spring blooms. You can then grow hosta and cosmos for bees in early summer – and sedum and goldenrod to help bees in late summer and fall.
Shop for your bee garden plants at a reputable nursery with knowledgeable staff who can help you pick the right plants for your garden.
Provide water for bees.
Bees need clean water. Fill a shallow container of water with pebbles or twigs for the bees to land on while drinking. You should also permit a few puddles here and there from which the bees can drink. Keep the puddles in muddy areas. The bees will absorb the minerals and salt they need from the soil as they sip the water.
Build homes for bees.
With wild bee habitat in decline. You can lend some of your garden for bees to nest. Wood and stem-nesting bees will benefit from untended hedgerows or hollow reeds and nesting blocks made of untreated wood.
Other bee species will need a source of water and mud. If you use mulch, leave some areas of dirt exposed for nesting. Bee houses are also an option. Place them in the shady areas of your garden where they will not be disturbed.
You can choose to create bee nesting areas, as well. Simply fill planters and barrels with soil or sand. Place these where they will be protected from direct sunlight and rain.
A Good Trade
Every gardener knows that bees play a critical role in nature. Without them, there would be few flowers in our gardens and even fewer fruits and vegetables. One shudders at the thought of what might happen to our food supplies should their numbers continue to dwindle.
You can do your part to help our gardens’ most important pollinators by making your garden a haven for bees. Whatever you give bees in pollen and nectar, they will return in blooms and fruit.