Make Your Garden More Friendly for Bees
This week, June 18-24, is National Pollinator Week a time to celebrate pollinators and spread the word about what you can do to protect them.
Eleven years ago the U.S. Senate’s unanimous approval and designation of a week in June as “National Pollinator Week” marked a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. Pollinator Week has now grown into an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles, writes Pollinator.org.
- About 75% of all flowering plant species need the help of animals to move their heavy pollen grains from plant to plant for fertilization.
- About 1,000 of all pollinators are vertebrates such as birds, bats, and small mammals.
- Most pollinators (about 200,000 species) are beneficial insects such as flies, beetles, wasps, ants, butterflies, moths, and bees.
- An estimated 1/3 of all foods and beverages is delivered by pollinators.
- In the U.S., pollination produces nearly $20 billion worth of products annually.
How You Can Help
- Create a pollinator-friendly garden habitat
- Design your garden so that there is a continuous succession of plants flowering from spring through fall. Check for the species or cultivars best suited to your area and gradually replace lawn grass with flower beds.
- Plant native to your region using plants that provide nectar for adults plus food for insect larvae, such as milkweed for monarchs. If you do use non-native plants, choose ones that don't spread easily, since these could become invasive.
- Select old-fashioned varieties of flowers whenever possible because breeding has caused some modern blooms to lose their fragrance and/or the nectar/pollen needed to attract and feed pollinators.
- Install 'houses' for bats and native bees (more instructions below)
- Avoid pesticides, even so-called "natural" ones such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). If you must use them, use the most selective and least toxic ones and apply them at night when most pollinators aren't active.
- Supply water for all wildlife. A dripping faucet or a suspended milk carton with a pinhole in the bottom is sufficient for some insects. Other wildlife need a small container of water.
- Provide water for butterflies without letting it become a mosquito breeding area. Refill containers daily or bury a shallow plant saucer to its rim in a sunny area, fill it with coarse pine bark or stones and fill to overflowing with water.
- Share fun facts, such as: a tiny fly (a “midge”) no bigger than a pinhead is responsible for the world's supply of chocolate; or one out of every three mouthfuls of food we eat is delivered to us by pollinators.
Build a Bee Condo!
Many of the wild bees you may encounter in your backyard garden make their burrow homes in the soil. Some bees create hives in snags (a dead or dying standing tree, often with its branches broken off), or in holes in trees. You can also encourage bee-residents by providing man-made nesting blocks or “Bee Condos.” It’s easy to build a “Bee Condo” for your native bees.
4”x6” or 6”x6” dried pine or fir post (or you can try a weathered fence post or other scrap wood)
Drill and drill bits, a variety of diameters, ranging from 1/4 in. to 3/8 in.
Paper straws – not plastic (available at some hardware stores, or through a scientific supply store), or small hollow sticks, with one end sealed
A warm location protected from rain and predators.
How to do it:
1. Cut the wooden posts into blocks 8-12 in. long.
2. Drill holes into the wood blocks using a variety of hole diameters from 1/4 in. to 3/8 in. Drill holes 3-5 in. deep, and at least 3/4 in. apart. Smooth out ragged edges of holes.
3. Alternatively, a bundle of paper straws or hollow sticks, with one end sealed, will make an attractive bee home.
4. Bees prefer dark colored homes, so consider charring the front of your “Bee Condo” lightly with a torch.
5. Mount your “Bee Condo” on a post or attach to the side of a building. Place nesting blocks so that tunnels are horizontal. Make sure they are in a warm location with southern exposure and protected from rain. A good place could be under the eaves of a garage or shed.
6. If you don’t want to build your own “Bee Condo,” many are available online for purchase.
Pollinating info courtesy of pollinator.org