How to invite all kinds of bees into your garden

 
 Bumblebees are just one in more than 30,000 bee species. Taking simple steps to attract a variety of pollinators can give you a healthier garden and help support your local ecosystem. 

Bumblebees are just one in more than 30,000 bee species. Taking simple steps to attract a variety of pollinators can give you a healthier garden and help support your local ecosystem. 

A healthy Honey Bee population contributes to our health and environment in many ways, not least of which is the way they pollinate fruits, vegetables, and nuts. But Honey Bees, which were domesticated and brought from Europe in the 17th century and have been intentionally managed since, aren’t the only pollinators out there. Often left out of the conversation are the countless other bee species that make your juicy late summer tomato dreams a reality.

"By maintaining a chemical-free garden you make it easier for a variety of pollinators to thrive."

These underappreciated bees deserve more attention for a few reasons. First, each geographic area has its own native bee species, which play a unique and important role in the local ecosystem. Second, native bees are often less defensive than honey bees, with stings both rarer and milder. Finally, native pollinators do not require hives or fancy equipment to be happy.

Native bees cover a wide spectrum of specialties and habitats. Some, like Mason Bees, like living in wood structures. Many, including Miner Bees, burrow underground. Others, like the Squash Bee or Southeastern Blueberry Bee, pollinate a specific crop family. There are social species, like Bumble Bees, that live in groups, and those that prefer a solitary existence and avoid nesting near other bees.

The bottomline is that all bees can be a helpful addition to any garden so the more of them the better. Here’s how to invite them on over.  

 Pollinator hotels make great homes for bees.

Pollinator hotels make great homes for bees.

Plant a variety of flowers for year-round blooming. Perennial flowers, such as Yarrow, Black-eyed Susan, Lavender, and Echinacea are particularly useful because they have a head start on annual flowers and can bloom sooner or later in the season. They also minimize your garden workload by returning year after year. Trees and shrubs add variety as well.

Include native flowers and plants. Since native species evolved together, the bees are well-suited to these plants. Native plants will naturally do well in your garden without taking over. Find out what plants are native to your area through resources such as the National Wildlife Federation website, or at your local nursery.

Offer a water feature. Even filling a lid with water will give pollinators a place to hydrate during the hot summer months. Bees also like to get water from bird baths or dripping hoses. 

Start a pollinator hotel. Create a mix of hallowed-out sticks, such as raspberry plant stems, and pieces of wood with holes drilled. These make perfect homes for many types of bees. For bees that live underground, you can create an inviting area for them to burrow by leaving scraps of fallen plant material and rotted wood.

Grow organically. It’s better for you, your plants, and the bees. Pesticides create a hostile environment. By maintaining a chemical-free garden, you make it easier for pollinators to thrive.