Jason’s Guide to a Bee Friendly Garden
Why Gardeners are the Superheroes Who Will Save the Bees
From the addition of the Rusty Patched bumble bee to the endangered list this year, to the decline of the western bumble bee population; you can’t honey-coat it, bees are in trouble. Never fear, West Coast Gardeners as YOU are actually the superheros of the bee world, jumping into action to help save our striped friends with your green-thumb superpowers! So bee-lieve in yourself and let’s help out our friends together.
Nearly 800 species of bees are Canadian (eh?) and 450 of them are fellow BC residents. In fact, would you bee-lieve that ¾ of all nuts, fruits, vegetables and herbs are pollinated by bees? Everytime we open our fridge for a snack we are relying on the hard work of our bee population.
You’ve Got A Garden? Hive Five!
Having a garden is the first step in saving our bees, fellow Gardeners, no matter how big or small. (Not quite as dramatic as leaping off tall buildings, I know.) Even a collection of container plants can offer bees a quick stop in urban areas. I won’t drone on, but let me tell you about a couple of easy things you can do to bee-friend them as they pass through your yard this year.
Bees Hive a Dream – Water, Sun & Food
Sound like a day at the bee-ch? For a bee it is! And since these amazing insects only have a 45 day life span, why not give them paradise? These insects love sanctuaries that protect them from the wind, rain and cold with lots of sunny warmth. Another must-hive is water, as bees are especially attracted to garden areas that provide them with refreshment. Line a shallow plate or dish with small rocks and then add water. Make sure the top half of the rocks are dry, like islands in the Bee-hamas, for the bees to perch on. (Bee-careful though, bees swim about as well as giraffes.)
You Can’t Hive it Both Ways
In the quest to make your garden safer and healthier, your superhero deeds should include reading the ingredients! Many pesticides that get rid of harmful insects and pests can also hurt bees. Sure we don’t want colonies of aphids or ants, but not at the expense of our friendly bees. Bee mindful of which pesticides and fungicides you use in the garden. We have a variety of bee-friendly choices like our Safer Soap, which won’t harm them but is still effective on other pests. Bee-ware of what you use on your lawn as well, bees don’t just land on flowers! Avoid plant care products with imidacloprid, which is a neonicotinoid (Practically your arch-nemesis). This has been implicated in the decline of bee populations and is banned in Europe.
Bee Kind to Everyone
Now we get to the fun stuff, planting bee-utiful flowers for the bees! Real superheros don’t discriminate, they save anyone in trouble, so plant a variety of flowers to help with bee diversity. Different species of bees are attracted to and eat the pollen of different flowers, so nurture a wide range. As well, various species have different length of tongues and appendages so a variety of flower shapes and sizes (from shallow to deep, large to small) will bring even the most sno-bee pollinator to your yard.
Roses are Red, Violets are Blue…
…choose the right flowers, in just the right hue. Bees don’t see quite the same way we do, in fact you may think you’re attracting them with some bee-utiful bright red blooms when bees actually see red as black, not super appealing. (Time to swap that red spandex costume for a purple one!) Blue, violet and yellow are the best bet for catching their eye and keeping your garden buzzing.
A Garden Fit for a Queen
While you’re planting your garden think about when your plants will bloom. Choose flowers that bloom at different times of the year and you’ll always have an attractive buffet for the bees. Native flowers attract up to four times the pollinators as hybrids (think of them as your superhero sidekicks) so make sure they are well represented in your garden.
Some of my favourite blooms and plants to attract those bees are also edible for humans! Sprinkle them in salads or on other dishes for a colourful, edible delight.
Herbs that will attract those bees and also be delicious in your kitchen include: Lavender, mints, rosemary, thyme, bee balm (bergamot), basil and catnip.
Edible bee attracting plants include: chives, agastache (anise hyssop), borage, calendula, cardoon, cornflowers and sunflowers. Sunflowers are especially great because their height makes them act like beacons, attracting bees from all over!
Other plants bees love: butterfly bush, ammi (False Queen Anne’s Lace), cosmos, geraniums, california poppies, fireweed and lupines.
Alright, gardening superheros, now you’re well armed to help defend the bees! Remember, you can make a difference no matter how big or small. Get gardening and hive a great day!