You don’t have to line your home with hives to do your part in saving the bees. Bee-ing supportive can be as simple as planting a couple of flowers. Yep, we’re talking about creating a bee garden. Butterflies get them, why not bees, too?
While a garden may seem like no big deal to you, it’s huge for bees. The fact is, it is becoming harder and harder for bees to get their flower fix. With the rise of industrial farming practices--like pesticide use and monocropping--finding clean habitats and diverse flowers to feed upon is becoming more and more of a rarity. Imagine that all of your local produce markets were suddenly destroyed and replaced by McDonald’s. Yeah, you’d get by, but it’d be tough to stay healthy. (And let's not forget about the blueberry withdrawals.) Bees have got it that tough.
Since bees are out there single-handedly pollinating 30 percent of the world’s crops and whatnot, let’s give them a helping hand by creating as many healthy habitats for them as we can. Whether you live in a tiny apartment with a window box or have a big, beautiful lawn, here are some tips for creating the most beautiful, most tantalizing bee garden--ahem, bee oasis--you can muster…
Opt for native species.Your bees are locals, so your plants should be too. Choose lots of native plant species to entice bees into your garden. Since bees have evolved alongside these native plants, they tend to instinctively seek them out. And while exotic flowers can look appealing to us, they tend to contain very little pollen or nectar for the bees.
Get wildflower with your colors.
Trivia time: Did you know that bees have an incredible capacity to see colors? Like us, they have 3 photoreceptors in their eyes. While human receptors are based on red, green, and blue hues, bee vision is based on green, blue, and ultraviolet. That means instead of a red-through-violet rainbow, the bees see a rainbow of green-through-ultraviolet! This is super useful, since many flowers have ultraviolet “bull’s-eyes” that are invisible to us which help funnel bees towards the food. But bee vision has one major caveat—they have a challenging time seeing red.
Reds are very tough for bees to differentiate from green, which can spell trouble in the chlorophyll-rich world of plants. So how can you make sure the bees find your flowers? Create a garden that blends together vibrant flowers of all hues, focusing especially on blues, violets, and yellows. And bees still love red flowers when they find them, so don’t shy away. Just don’t pull a Queen of Hearts and start painting your entire garden red.
Add water.Give your bees the chicest bee bath around. Keeping a shallow bowl/plate of water in the dirt provides bees with fresh water to drink. But bees also need somewhere to land and drink from (they’re not great water-landers), so place a few small rocks protruding above the water line as “islands” in the bath. Welcome to the oasis, buzzing friends!
Ditch poisons.Perhaps most crucially, don’t use pesticides, insecticides, or herbicides on your garden/lawn/anywhere. The chemicals in these formulations are severely toxic to bees and are a surefire way to kill our little friends, not save them. Also, be sure to check that any plants or seeds you buy have not been treated with neonicotinoids, the dangerous pesticide that has been directly linked with CCD and the widespread endangerment of bees.
Make sure your flowers are bee-friendly.Bees need pollen and nectar throughout the seasons, so make sure you design your garden with plants that will bloom gradually throughout the year (rather than all at once). And be aware that not all plants are equally desirable to our Bee-FFs. That’s why it is important to choose flowers with a good balance between pollen production, nectar production, and shape. Here are some great choices you can mix and match to help you design a beautiful, diverse bee garden throughout the seasons:
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