If you’re a gardener, you’re already well aware of the essential role bees play in ensuring a productive harvest. But far beyond the backyard garden, bees are responsible for pollinating 80% of our flowering crops, comprising a third of everything we eat. And honeybees aren’t the only ones at work; there are around 4,000 species of native bees in the U.S., including bumblebees, carpenter bees, and mason bees.

Unfortunately, the bee population is in serious decline. Colony collapse disorder, parasites, diseases, exposure to pesticides, and destruction of habitat has led to massive bee death across the country. For those of us unable to keep our own hives, the best thing we can do is create a safe haven for bees in our yard.


Plant Something Enticing

Since different bees are active at varied points of the year, it’s important to plant an assortment of flowers that bloom from early spring through late fall. Wildflowers and other native plants provide bees with an excellent source of pollen and nectar. Talk to your state’s native plant society or a Homestead Gardens expert to find out which native plants will be best for your garden.

Bees are most attracted to blue, purple and yellow flowers. Flat or shallow blossoms attract the largest variety of bees, as pollen and nectar are easily accessible. Plant flowers in large groups as bees frequently return to clearly visible flower beds.

For more information, see the following resources:


Add a Little Water

Honeybees need water to cool the hive in the hot summer months and to dilute honey in the winter. Add a watering station to your yard and you’ll be surprised to see how many bees end up using it. The simplest way to accomplish this is by filling a bucket or pail with water, and floating a generous amount of wine corks in the water.The corks work as a landing pad so bees can drink their fill of water without drowning.

For more information, see the following resources:


Provide a Place to Live

While most people assume all bees live in hives, the large majority of them are solitary wanderers. By creating a safe nesting habitat in your yard, you can do a lot to help the native bee population thrive.

Wood nesting bee houses can be purchased at a Homestead Gardens retail store or made at home.

Wooden blocks with holes drilled in them, hollow reeds bound together, or pull-apart wooden blocks are particularly good nesting materials. Ground nesting bees will need bare patches of gently compacted earth in which to excavate brood chambers.

For more information, see the following resources:

Attracting bees to your garden can be as simple as planting the right flowers and throwing up a nesting block. However, in order to safeguard these amazing pollinators, it’s absolutely imperative you avoid using pesticides. Many pesticides — even the organic ones — are deadly for bees and other pollinators.

If we all do a little to help our lovely, buzzworthy friends, it can go a long way in protecting the future of our food supply.

Liz Greene is a dog loving, history studying, pop culture geek from the beautiful City of Trees, Boise, Idaho. You can catch her latest misadventures on her blog, Instant Lo.

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