A Comprehensive Guide on Why and How to Attract Bees to Your Garden
By the team at Visualized Landscape
Introduction: What is the Importance of Bees?
There are not many animals that even come close to bees when it comes to how crucial they are to a local ecosystem. Bees play a number of other very important roles in the natural world, that can also benefit your garden. Keep reading to find out more about what makes it so important to attract more of the local bee population into your home’s garden.
Bees are Crucial for Pollination
Bees collect both nectar and pollen from flowering plants. Nectar is the main source of food that bees use for energy, as it is packed full of natural sugar, and it is also a key ingredient in the honey they produce back in the hive. Bees also take pollen back to the hive, as it is full of protein and fat, as an additional food source.
In the process of collecting both of these from a flower, bees also collect large amounts of pollen on the hairs on their legs and body. As the bee flies from one flower to the next, the pollen that has attached itself to its body is shaken loose as the bee moves around and brushes against the next flower, pollinating the plant.
Around 80% of all the plants in the world rely primarily on bees for pollination, the process that flowering plants use to reproduce and create new plants.
Bees Complete the Food Webs
A food web describes how each animal and plant in an ecosystem uses each other as an energy source or food, while also creating food for the animals that eat them.
Using a food web, we can trace how energy from the sun is photosynthesized by plants before being transferred to first the animals that eat plants, then to the animals that eat those animals, and so on until eventually making its way back into the soil as a decomposing matter to feed the plants once again.
If part of this chain is broken by the absence of a species that is key to this process of making energy available as food to everything in the ecosystem, it can have disastrous consequences for the ecosystem as a whole. As energy becomes unable to move around the ecosystem because of a gap in the food web, animals and plants at every other step in the chain can suffer the consequences in one form or another.
Bees play a very important role in the food web of your local ecosystem, in several ways. Firstly, their role as pollinators is vital to enabling the continued growth of new photosynthesizing plants. Without those, there would eventually be no food for anything else. All of the energy in a food web ultimately comes from the sun, and only photosynthesizing plants can turn that energy into something that other forms of life can make use of.
Additionally, bees and their honey also provide a food source for many animals who eat them. Without bees, many parts of the food web will eventually run out of their usual food sources.
That means that not only will your garden fail to grow new plants, but you will also start to see less and less variety of local wildlife in your yard.
Bees Benefit Biodiversity
All of the plants that bees help to pollinate make up the natural habitats of the local wildlife in your area. As most plants need bees to pollinate their flowers, bees are vital for ensuring you have a wide variety of plants to enjoy in your outdoor spaces. And it is not just the plants either.
Most of your local wildlife is dependent on that plant variety too.
This includes all of the animals that eat the different varieties of plants in your yard, and also their predators, and also plenty of other animals who just use the plants as shade from the sun or cover to hide from their hunters. For example, small birds may be less willing to visit a yard where there is nowhere to hide from larger birds of prey, or spots to perch out of the reach of a hungry neighborhood cat.
Trees Need Bees
We usually think of bees as pollinating flowers, since that is where we see them most often. However, higher above our heads, the bees are just as busy harvesting and pollinating the trees. Even the largest of trees are primarily dependent on bees to reproduce and grow new trees.
How to Attract Bees to Your Garden
Okay, you’re probably getting the message by now. Bees are great, and you should want to attract more of them to visit your garden. They are very helpful to you as a gardener, and even more helpful to the local wildlife and environment.
If you grow your own food, you must also be wondering how to attract bees to your garden for pollination, and specifically how to attract bees to your vegetable garden.
So how do you convince the bees to give your yard a visit?
Add a Little Water
Bees are always looking out for sources of nectar and pollen, but they also need plenty of water. Worker bees need water to survive the heat of the day and carry out their vital work, and they also carry water back to the hive to be used in many essential functions throughout the hive. If you are concerned about the water cost of leaving out water for the bees and other wildlife, here is a great tip for water-conserving landscaping:
You can take steps to shield your water source from the sun, such as by adding floating vegetation to your pond. This will help reduce how much water evaporates throughout the day.
It also has the added benefit of providing a safe place for the bees to land, ensuring you won’t be fishing dead bees out of your pond or other water features each day.
Create diverse plantings
So what attracts bees to flowers? Nectar.
Flowers produce the most nectar and pollen right after they bloom. Different plants bloom at different times of the year. As a result, planting a wide range of flowering plants ensures that the bees will keep coming back to your yard throughout the year as different plants bloom, rather than only being active in your garden for a few weeks of the year.
While plant diversity is very helpful to bees, you will get the best results by sticking to native plants rather than flowers that are foreign to your region. It doesn’t just have to be flowers either. Bees also collect nectar from trees, bushes, and many different herbs.
Avoid using pesticides
Most pesticides are toxic to bees and other beneficial insects and bugs, not just the pests. You can instead opt for alternative products that are not harmful to bees, or a natural pest control solution such as encouraging or introducing species of insect, bird, or mammal that eat pests such as gnats and mosquitos.
Use local native plants
There are many different types of bees throughout the country, and they are all adapted to take advantage of their local flora. They may not be able to identify and make use of other flowering plants as easily, since they don’t usually encounter those types of plants.
Using local plants also means less work for you as a gardener, as native plants will survive your local climate with much less help from you.
Choose several colors of flowers
Bees use the color of flowers to decide where to look for nectar and pollen. It can be difficult to know which colors will attract your local bee population, as bees and other insects see a very different range of colors to us.
As a result, planting a wide range of colors greatly increases the chance that your yard will offer a color of flower that your local bees recognize as a great source of nectar.
Plant flowers in clumps
Flowers are easier for bees to find when they are grouped into an area rather than spread around the yard. Bees and other insects cannot see very far at all, so creating large blocks of color makes the flowers much easier for the bees to see. It also increases the strength of the flowers’ scent, making it easier for a passing bee to detect.
Plant where bees will visit
Flowers planted in brightly lit areas are also easier for the bees to spot. However, make sure you provide some shelter from the wind in the form of nearby trees or shrubbery.
Strong winds make it difficult for bees to land and take off safely, and they may decide not to visit an area where the winds are high when there are safer flowerbeds to harvest elsewhere.