Visit the Million Pollinator
Bees are in trouble. Habitat loss, pesticide exposure and disease have wreaked havoc with our native bee populations. Here is some interesting bee trivia: most bee species are solitary or not formed in colonies, males cannot sting and bees pollinate one third of the food we eat. But you don’t have to become a bee keeper to help. Here are a few simple things that home gardeners can do.
Plant Flowers, the More the Better
Strive to keep your garden or yard blooming from spring until frost. Even early blooming flower bulbs like crocuses and narcissus provide pollen and nectar for early emerging bees. Incorporate some native plants, wildflowers and plenty of herbs into your garden. Let a few herbs flower. Many popular herbs like chives, thyme, lemon balm, lavender and mint feed our bees. One of our best-selling perennials, hyssop or agastache attracts bees and butterflies too. Hyssop in a real work horse. It blooms from spring until frost, is drought tolerant and thrives in our hot humid summers.
Let a small portion of your yard ‘go natural’ . Provide undisturbed wild areas that can serve as a source of nectar. Allow a little patch of clover to grow in part of your lawn. Bees love clover. Plant a diversity of flowers, shrubs, herbs…the more variety the better. If you tidy up your garden in the fall, leave any hollow stemmed plants in a pile out of the way. Some bees hibernate in hollow stemmed plants like Joe Pye weed and bee balm. Rock piles, heaps of brush, and even upturned flower pots with holes provide bee habitat. You can also use hollow canes or purchase commercially made nesting tubes.
Eat Organic and Hold the Insecticides
Although it can be expensive, purchasing organic or growing your own organic food is a sure fire way of protecting bees from harmful pesticides. If you must spray, use a product with no toxicity like BT or low toxicity like Neem Oil. And most importantly, spray early in the morning or late at night to avoid contact with the bees.
Incorporate Some Native Plants in Your Garden
Although not as flashy as newer varieties, native plants are needed as host and nectar plants for butterflies, bees and birds. As they forage for their own sustenance bees pollinate one out of every three bites of food we consume. Think apples, peaches, strawberries, avocados, almonds and all the colorful fruits and veggies that we enjoy. Native plants have deep roots which absorb excess rainfall and prevent water from running directly into our rivers and streams helping to provide clean water for everyone. Native plants instead of turf lawns help reduce our carbon footprint.