Have you heard reports about the dangers our honey bees face these days? Have you also heard that they pollinate an estimated 70 percent of the world’s plants, including many food crops? Maybe it’s time you and I did our part and thought of ourselves as nice hosts for the pollinators. We do this by providing them with a food source (flowers), something to drink (simple dish of water) and a bee house, of course! Here’s how we made our own bee house for nesting bees and have plans for our very own pollinator garden this year. The book that’s helping us do both? The Bee Friendly Garden, by Frey and LeBuhn.
Bees Are Our Friends
The first thing some of us have to get over before we create a bee friendly garden is our fear of bees. As Frey and LeBuhn remind us,
“Bees do not aggressively chase down human prey! The best approach if there are bees flying nearby in your garden is to be calm and to not touch them. Bees only sting to defend themselves and their nests.”
Unless you step on her or otherwise squish her, a honey bee is not going to even think about stinging you because she dies if she does. Male bees can’t sting at all and many or our native bees don’t have stingers that can penetrate human skin. So, try to relax. Bees are not your enemy; they are your pollinating, food-providing friends.
Another thing to bear in mind is that there are thousands of different insects that are classified as “bees”. Granted, some, like wasps, can be a bit aggressive but for the most part bees are very willing to do their thing and leave you be. Please don’t slap at them or scream when you see them; please never spray them with pesticides.
The Basics of a Bee Friendly Garden
Now that we have the obvious out of the way, let’s get into the fun stuff. That, for me, is the plants! As a gardener, I have a natural love of wildflowers and “cottage” plants like coreopsis, sedum, bee balm, penstemon, butterfly bush, as well as hyssop and other herbs. I love their colors, their smells, and they way they attract pollinators to my yard.
Typically, I plant wildflowers in among my vegetable crops and around my fruit trees to draw in the beneficial insects. I don’t put too much thought into design, to be honest. If it’s pretty, useful in the garden and helpful to the bees, I’ll probably plunk it in somewhere.
Bee Plants for Each Region
The Bee Friendly Garden can help you with so many design ideas, if you’d like them. My favorite part about the book, apart from the blending of solid science with gorgeous gardens, is the copious amount of specific lists of bee-friendly plants. They’re listed as annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs, etc.
And the authors also break down pollinator plants by region of the U.S. Incidentally, if a plant is good for bees, it’s usually good for other pollinators like butterflies, too. Oh, I almost forgot, there’s also a list of plants that are relatively useless to bees because of how they’re designed. With these plants the pollen is either not accessible or the plant simply isn’t attractive to the bees. The many lovely photos can help you get an idea of how your designs might look as you work your way through The Bee Friendly Garden.
For a few ideas of bee friendly plants, visit my friends at:
If you need some bee-friendly groundcover plants, click here.
Bee Friendly Seeds
We’re new to Missouri and on a nearly raw piece of land. We’re going to need to build up our garden beds as we use permaculture principles to design our zone one (those areas closest to the house) gardens this year. I made sure to go through my seed catalogs this year and bulk up my stash of bee-friendly plants and herbs for my new state. I plan to start most of them from seed indoors this year since I’m unfamiliar with how spring starts-for-real in my new state. (Ever notice how spring does a few fake outs before it really comes to stay?)
I’m learning about the flora and fauna of my new state so I really appreciating Frey and LeBuhn’s information. They spend a good amount of time explaining the different nature of the most common pollinating bees.
There are really good photos and information on nesting sites for native bees. This native bee information includes how we can provide safe habitat for them. One thing they suggest is to build your own bee house out of scrap lumber (non-treated). By simply drilling a series of holes, you create a cozy home for the bees.
Building a Bee House
Bees like the cooler morning sun for their bee houses. So, plan to find a place that doesn’t get the hot sun of the afternoon. Also, be sure to find a place that isn’t in the direct line of a human foot path. That seems obvious but I had to say it anyway.
To build our mason bee house we used a clean (un-treated), scrap piece of 4″ x 4″ lumber about 8 inches long, a drill and some paint. To get the step by step instructions, please visit our Farm Sprouts blog over at Hobby Farms – click here.
Do Something Bee Friendly This Year!
If planting a whole garden just isn’t in the works this year, maybe you can keep some potted herbs on your deck. Or, put up a bee house here and there. Don’t forget to teach your kiddos all about bees so that they know the facts about them. Including, what to do when they see the bees in your garden.
If you really get into creating a bee friendly garden of your own, you might want to check out the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge from The National Wildlife Federation. Similarly, you can get your garden certified by the North American Butterfly Association. Or, become an official Monarch butterfly way station for migrating Monarchs every year.
Each institution has their own set of requirements and fees associated. You usually get a plaque, sign or flag to display in your official pollinator-friendly yard. Plus, you have the added benefit of knowing you’re truly participated in everyone’s food security. You will have really helped out our bees and other pollinators in a meaningful way. Plus, plus, you have a lovely garden!
Do you have favorite bee friendly plants that you’d like to recommend to me? Please leave me their names in the comments. I need an excuse to buy more seed. Tee hee.
*Blogging For Books sent me a copy of The Bee Friendly Garden for review. I was so happy to receive it as it’s been of great help to us as we make our garden plans this year. The fact that I received a complimentary copy in no way influenced my review. These are the actual thoughts that I thunk.
For Other DIY Projects
For other DIY projects, homesteading information, plans and goals, be sure to check out our book The Do It Yourself Homestead. With over 400 pages of inspiration present on four different levels of homesteading experience, you’re bound to find something useful! Click below for more information.
*The bee cover photo is attributed with thanks to this Wikipedia Commons user.