Over the past several years most gardeners have become aware of a significant decrease in the honeybee population. There are many theories as to what is impacting the bees ranging from concerns over the use of pesticides to parasites and even electromagnetic radiation. Whatever the cause the loss of these bees is no joke as estimates are that up to ¾ of the food we consume depends on pollination from animals such as bees. While it may seem like we individually can do little to change this trend the truth is that most bees actually live in urban settings including your backyard and creating a bee-friendly environment can be a significant step toward helping them to make a comeback!
The truth is that helping bees isn’t really as hard as you may think. The first thing you should consider doing is making sources of food readily available to bees. Bees thrive on nectar which is a sugar that provides bees with an energy boost and pollen which provides protein to help build strong muscles which the bee uses to build its hive. A variety of plants that flower at different times is a great way to provide both of these food sources.
Believe it or not bees have strong color preferences and they are especially attracted to blue, purple, violet, white and yellow flowers. Planting large clumps of these flowers together is the best way to help the bees find these plants. Good choices include coneflowers, lavender, cosmos and even pumpkin vines. Another important need that bees have is a source of fresh water. One way to help bees obtain this is to leave out a shallow bowl or plate with stones in the water to give the bees a spot to land on. The container should be on the ground and you’ll want to place this in a convenient spot as you’ll really need to replenish the water daily.
A specific type of bee, known as a Mason Bee is being promoted as a candidate to help replace the bees that are being lost. These bees have characteristics that make them ideal candidates for this job. While they are native to the Pacific Northwest there are mason bees in many areas of the country and they are known to be great pollinators. Like honeybees mason bees often live together but unlike their honeybee cousins they actually work alone without any cooperation from one another. There is no queen to protect so this makes them far less aggressive and their sting, if they do so at all, is more like a mosquito bite than your typical bee sting.
If you would like to attract these bees to your yard you can purchase mason bee hives from garden supply stores or search online and find out how to make your own mason bee box. If you really want to accelerate things there are even places online that you can buy mason bee larvae. Finally, in addition to a nesting box mason bees require mud to lay their eggs so a source of this material should be available for them to use. So let’s be sure to do our part to “bring back the bees” to our gardens.