The numbers of honeybees we have is rapidly declining: U.S. National Agricultural Statistics show a honey bee decline from about 6 million hives in 1947 to 2.4 million hives in 2008, a 60 percent reduction. (Scary!) Why should we care? Well, while 'grains are primarily pollinated by the wind, but fruits, nuts and vegetables are pollinated by bees.'
Seventy out of the top 100 human food crops — which supply about 90 percent of the world’s nutrition — are pollinated by bees. [greenpeace.org]
One way to help our neighbor bees, is to build a bee-friendly garden in our own backyard! In honor of National Honeybee Day, here is the step-by-step process on how to build a honeybee-friendly garden, courtesy of The Honeybee Conservancy. 'Follow these guidelines for a project that can be great fun for kids and a sanctuary for bees.
Location, location, location
First, decide where in your yard is the best location for a bee friendly garden. Consider placing the bee garden in a part of your yard that is currently lawn. This will reduce your yard’s water consumption and provide you with something much prettier to look at than the grass.
The blooms in your bee friendly garden
After deciding on a location, the fun job of choosing bee friendly plants begins! Kids will love choosing bright, colorful flowers for the bee friendly garden and helping to plant them. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
1. Choose flowers with single blooms, which provide more nectar.
2. Use herbs to benefit both the bees and your kitchen.
3. Select flowers that will bloom the range of seasons – spring, summer, and fall – so that the bees will always have food.
4. Make sure your flowers are non-hybridized and have not been treated with neonicotinoids.
5. A list of flowers that attract bees can be found in this post.
If you would like to build a bee friendly garden on a budget, you don’t need to purchase all of your plants from your local garden center. Ask nearby friends and family if they have any self-propagating, flowering plants and would be willing to share this year’s babies with you. Or, drive down a country road during each blooming season and notice the wildflowers you see. Dig some up and take them home!
Next: a water source for your bee friendly garden
Once you’ve acquired your plants, your honeybee garden still needs a water source. Honeybee waterers may be a foreign concept to new bee-lovers, but it is very important that bees have a way to stay hydrated while they do the hard work of pollinating your garden. These waterers can be as simple or elegant as you like, and no matter what they can bring some beauty to your garden. Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Fill a bowl or bucket with water and cover the surface with wine corks. The corks will float on top of the water, providing bees with a place to land.
2. Use a dish, tray, or birdbath with gravel, rocks, and twigs sticking out of the water so bees can land for a drink.
3. Place marbles in a dish, tray, or birdbath, then fill with water so that the marbles are higher than the water.
4. Instead of marbles, use pieces of sea glass and place them in a tray or tiered planter.
If you are doing this project with children, use colorful marbles in the water, or let kids collect stones and rocks to fill it with. Make sure to check your bee waterer regularly so the bees can come back again and again to a reliable water source.
Now your garden is ready for honeybees!
Welcoming bumble and solitary bees
If you would like to make your garden a sanctuary for other native bees as well, you can add some simple but charming bee homes for native bees.
1. Leave some bare ground mulch-free for native burrowing bees.
2. Provide bamboo sections or twig piles for bee nests.
3. Build a bee house from untreated wood for solitary bees.
That’s it! You now have a bee sanctuary in your own yard. Be sure not to use pesticides or herbicides in your bee friendly garden, and the bees will love the food, water, and shelter you have provided for them. Bees aren’t the only ones who can enjoy this garden, either. Choose some flowers to cut and enjoy in a vase inside! Just be sure to leave some behind for your new backyard friends.'