Backyard Bee Haven

Boost your berry harvest. Photo: Lorene Edwards Forkner

Boost your berry harvest. Photo: Lorene Edwards Forkner

Turn your garden into a bee haven by providing a long season of flowering plants serving up pollen and nectar for as much of the growing season as possible. Not only will you boost your harvest of fruits and vegetables but you’ll be playing an important part in a growing movement to protect and sustain our nation’s food supply.

Organic practices are good for pollinators, the planet and you: NO chemicals, manage resources conservatively, nurture, build and protect soil health.

The quirky caterpillar-like blossoms of bee plant (Phacelia tanacetifolia) are produced over a long bloom period, attracting pollinators and boosting pollination. Photo: Lorene Edwards Forkner

The quirky caterpillar-like blossoms of bee plant (Phacelia tanacetifolia) are produced over a long bloom period, attracting pollinators and boosting pollination. Photo: Lorene Edwards Forkner

Native plants and old fashioned non-native ornamentals are more supportive of native pollinators and require less water and added nutrients. You don’t have to completely forsake sterile hybrids and sexy double blossoms— just be sure to liven up your mix with some wildlife friendly plantings.

Reduce or eliminate turf. Love your lawn—and live in a region where maintaining turf is ecologically feasible?  Think about adding clover and english daisies to that solid non-flowering green carpet. You might even make allowances for a few dandelions and other flowering weeds.

Flower form matters as well. Compared to hardworking, hive-organized honeybees who systematically and efficiently gather pollen to feed their brood, solitary bees wantonly “belly flop” from blossom to blossom. Simple, single blossoms provide pollinators easier access to forage.

Engaging structures like this insect habitat fence at the Seattle Children’s PlayGarden prompt discussion about why enhancing and connecting habitat is so important. Photo: Lorene Edwards Forkner

Engaging structures like this insect habitat fence at the Seattle Children’s PlayGarden prompt discussion about why enhancing and connecting habitat is so important. Photo: Lorene Edwards Forkner

Our gardens need to provide more than just sustenance. Habitat is critical as well – don’t be overzealous with mulch! Unlike a honeybee that can forage for miles gathering pollen and nectar, solitary bees, many of which are ground nesting, stick very close to home – only venturing about 300 feet from their nesting site. Even a moderately large parking lot (or lawn) is an insurmountable barrier. Urban gardens and parks go a long ways toward providing “pathways” through our cities allowing pollinators to leapfrog from one landscape to another.

Ready to Raise Solitary Bees?

Orchard Mason bees, leaf cutter bees, and bumblebees are some of the garden’s greatest—and gentlest—pollinators. And observing solitary bees in the landscape is a fascinating, and frankly incredibly entertaining, window into natural systems that work so well when gardeners provide support and don’t get in the way with toxins, concrete, and monocultures.

Resourceful gardeners and creative eco-artists are constructing graphic bee houses from backyard bits and pieces like this one in the garden of Wendy Lagozzino. Photo: Lorene Edwards Forkner

Resourceful gardeners and creative eco-artists are constructing graphic bee houses from backyard bits and pieces like this one in the garden of Wendy Lagozzino. Photo: Lorene Edwards Forkner

A mason bee habitat filled with reeds containing newly-laid eggs and developing larvae. Photo: Lorene Edwards Forkner

A mason bee habitat filled with reeds containing newly-laid eggs and developing larvae. Photo: Lorene Edwards Forkner