10 Ways to Turn Your Yard Into a Buzz-Worthy Bee Haven

Bees pollinate a third of the world’s food crops, meaning one out of every three bites we eat is courtesy of a bee. But they’re dying off due to habitat destruction, pesticides, and climate change. Be a friend to the bees and the planet by making your yard a bee paradise.

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Photo By: Image courtesy of LDAW Landscape Architecture PC; photo by Bill Einhorn, RLA

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Provide Homes for Solitary Bees

Not all bees live in hives with thousands of co-workers. There are hundreds of species that live by themselves in nests they build in the ground or in wood. These gentle loners are overachievers, with one solitary bee able to pollinate as many plants as 120 honeybees. Give them a place to nest by putting out a bee hotel, a structure similar to a birdhouse. Attach it to south-facing wall or place in a sunny spot so the bees will be warm. Learn how to make a bee house >>

Use Organic Pest Control

Insecticides, especially a class known as neonicotinoids, are toxic to bees and other pollinators. Check the labels of plants and seeds before you buy to make sure they haven’t been treated with neonicotinoids, and don’t use any type of industrial insecticides at home. Use organic pest control methods like horticultural oils, soaps, or bee-safe insecticides made with Bt (bacillus thuringenesis.) Ladybugs, spiders and praying mantises eat garden pests, so welcome them to your yard for a big buffet of bugs.

Grow Native Plants

Insecticides, especially a class known as neonicotinoids, are toxic to bees and other pollinators. Check the labels of plants and seeds before you buy to make sure they haven’t been treated with neonicotinoids, and don’t use any type of industrial insecticides at home. Use organic pest control methods like horticultural oils, soaps, or bee-safe insecticides made with Bt (bacillus thuringenesis.) Ladybugs, spiders and praying mantises eat garden pests, so welcome them to your yard for a big buffet of bugs.

Muddy It Up

Leave a low, soggy area in your yard where bees can get mud they need to build nests. Butterflies, another hard-working pollinator whose populations are declining, like to “puddle” in mud, drinking water and getting minerals they need to stay healthy. You can also put out shallow pans filled with water and dirt to provide the winged creatures with their mudbaths.

Rock Some Boulders

Bees are cold-blooded and sensitive to chilly air. If the temperature drops below 50 degrees, they can’t fly. Same for butterflies. Help them out by placing boulders in sunny spots in your yard so they’ll have a warm place to rest on cool mornings.

Set Out a Bee Bath

Like all creatures, bees need clean, fresh water. Fill a shallow pan or a flower pot saucer with water. Add twigs and pebbles to give bees a place to land on while drinking. Refill it daily and keep it in the same place so bees will know where to find it.

Go Au Natural

Bees love an unkempt garden or yard. Replace part of your perfect lawn with flowering plants or overgrown hedges, and let some weeds and wildflowers grow. Dandelions, clover, chickweed, and milkweed provide lots of pollen for bees. Large shrubs provide nesting spots and shelter for solitary bees. Let the neighbors gripe. You’ll be on the right side of history.

Plant Flowers With Single Tops

Blooms with flat tops and one row of petals, like coneflowers, marigolds, cosmos and zinnias, are natural landing pads for bees and their pollen is easy for bees to reach. Double-headed flowers, like hybrid roses, camellias or dahlias, are showier because they have several rows of petals, but they produce less nectar and the bees have to dig through all those petals to reach the food.

Make Sure There are Flowers all Season

Bees need to eat from spring to fall, so put out a mix of plants that will bloom and supply pollen for them all season. The Honeybee Conservancy suggests planting crocus or borage for spring blooms, marigolds or cosmos for summer blooms, and sedum or golden rod for blooms in the late summer and early fall. You benefit, too, by having months of non-stop flowers.

No Yard? No Problem

You can make a bee-friendly space on a balcony or patio. Put plants that bees love in containers, put out a bee bath or a bee house, and you’ve got a bee oasis. Seven species of bees are now listed as endangered, so every little bit helps.

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