3 Tips for Creating a Bee-Friendly Space

Written by: Christy Erickson

Recently, bees have been in the news frequently because of the decline of the global honeybee population. Bees play a significant role in producing fruit and vegetables that humans consume – so much so, in fact, that Albert Einstein once stated, “Mankind will not survive the honeybees’ disappearance for more than five years.” Beekeepers have been reporting a decline of their honeybee populations for the past 10 years, and researchers point to states that have been experiencing harsh winters and drought. Honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder also is to blame for the deaths of bees in the United States. 

All in all, researchers believe that 30% of the bee population in the United States has disappeared and nearly 33% of all bee colonies in the country have died. The loss of bees in concerning because roughly 33% of the food we eat is a result of bees and pollinators, and commercial bees raised to pollinate crops in the U.S. are responsible for pollinating approximately 80% of all food crops. Fortunately, there are steps we all can take to help bees; one of those actions is to create bee-friendly spaces.

1. Choose Plants that Attract Bees

While you may think that bees love all plants, that’s not exactly the case. Some plants do not produce enough nectar for bees, and other plants do not produce much pollen to aid in the pollination process that is vital for thriving plants. The best way to approach a garden that will attract bees is to choose wildflowers that are native to your area. If you aren’t sure how to grow wildflowers or how to determine which wildflowers are indigenous in your area, check out these guides from American Meadows. Some of the best plants for attracting bees include mint, basil, lavender, strawberries, cucumbers, tomato, tulips, lilacs, black-eyed Susans, peony, honeysuckle, and sunflowers.

If you live in an urban area, don’t fret. City dwellers can help the bees, too, by planting an urban garden. Many urban areas are home to community gardens and rooftop gardens. If you’re not sure how to get started, make use of local resources and talk to local gardeners. You don’t need a huge amount of space to make an impact, especially if you plant edible plants and native flowers that attract bees.

2. Allow Your Plants to Flower

While it is important to deadhead your flowers to keep them growing and blossoming as long as possible, you need to allow them to flower and avoid rushing the process. When you leave flowers on your plants and vegetables, you ensure the bees have enough time to get the vital pollen and nectar. If you have a vegetable garden, harvest your vegetables but leave the entire plant intact so it can go to flower and help the pollinators. At the end of the season, leave the plants in the garden until all the flowers are gone.

3. Provide a Water Source for Bees

One aspect of helping bees that many people are unaware of is giving them a fresh, clean, easily accessible water source. Honeybees especially need water, and you can be as simple or as elaborate as you want in creating a water source for them. One DIY project is to fill a bird bath with pea gravel and then nearly cover it with water so the bees have an area to stand on while getting the water. 

Get the whole family involved in creating a bee water garden by collecting rocks from your yard with your children. Make sure they are different sizes and pesticide free; if you don’t know if they are free of pesticides, soak the rocks in a mixture of equal parts water and vinegar overnight and then rinse them thoroughly. Choose a shallow, wide bowl and mix large and small rocks together so the bees can stand on the larger rocks to access the water. Fill the bowl with fresh water until the rocks are half covered. Then, place the bowl in the garden and leave it there for the season to fill with rain.

By creating bee-friendly spaces, you will be doing your part to help bees and your plants thrive. Begin by choosing plants that attract bees, allowing your plants to flower, and providing a water source for the bees.

For more information about bees check out Christy's enlightening website info@savingourbees.org.