How to Create a Bee-Haven in Your Backyard
By now you've probably heard that honeybees are in dire straits. And we all know if we don't have bees then we don't have coffee. Or chocolate. Or beer. Or food in general. But without the first three, what's the point?
The good news is you can make some small changes around your garden to help keep the honeybees, and other pollinators, happy all year.
Keep it blooming all year
Spring and summer are great times to be a bee. Not only does nature give them lots of delicious food, spring fever also has us swarming to our local nurseries to pick up all the pretty flowers and delicious vegetables for our gardens.
But when fall and winter roll around we usually let our gardens die and we don't plant anything to replace them. That's okay for some types of bees because they hibernate when it gets cold. But some of our little friends are still buzzing around all winter searching for things to eat. You can help them out by keeping your garden blooming all year.
Try these plants to keep your pollinators happy:
- Anything in the sunflower or mint families
- Choose plants with a single-flower top, like daisies or marigolds, over plants with a double top, like impatiens; why? Because single-top flowers produce more nectar
- Choose heirloom vegetables over hybrids
- Zinnias, sedum, asters, witch hazel, and goldenrod are all great fall plants
- Leave the weeds, they can be a great food source for bees
No one wants to deal with bugs ruining all the hard work they put into their garden, but when you use pesticides it can't tell the difference between a happy little bee who's pollinating your plant and the tomato hornworm who's tearing it apart.
The good news is there are tons of non-toxic remedies for your garden problems.
Spread cayenne pepper around your plants to help repel them.
Mix equal parts of sugar and borax and place around the garden. Borax is toxic to humans and animals, so be careful this doesn't get on any vegetables you plan to eat, and that it's not accessible to your pets or children.
Spread diatomaceous earth on the leaves to protect them from these pests.
Pro Tip: Diatomaceous earth is a great tool against most pests!
These guys are pretty big, so the easiest thing to do is pick them off!
Release the ladybugs! There are a few beneficial insects like ladybugs, lacewing, and the minute pirate bug that prey on these pests.
Fill a small bowl with beer and put it in the garden. The slugs will be attracted to the beer, but once they're in the bowl they'll be unable to get out.
We rarely see bees and other insects lapping up water, so it's easy to forget that it's something they need just as much as we do. Make sure you give your friends plenty to drink, especially during the summer months. A birdbath or a small bucket or bowl will do! Just be sure you empty and refill the water often to avoid creating a mosquito breeding ground.
Remember that bees need a safe place to land when they drink. Toss a few wine corks into your water so your pollinators can keep dry when they lean in for a sip.
We usually think of bees creating their own giant hives to live in. But not every type of bee lives in a colony.
- Empty patches of dirt so burrowing bees can make their homes
- Bee boxes for solitary bees to make their homes
There you have it! Just follow these steps and your backyard will be the hottest spot for bees in town.