Honey bees are an excellent ecological and aesthetic addition to a nature-friendly garden. With toxic pesticides and herbicides, and new introduced diseases taking a toll on bees, they’ll need all the help they can get from environmentally minded gardeners.
For eco-friendly gardeners, here are some useful tips on how to attract honey bees to your garden:
1. Make your garden bee safe
Bees are extremely susceptible to pesticides and other chemicals sprayed and used in gardens. Aim to have a pesticide-free garden and use pest-ridding remedies that are natural and not reliant on chemicals. Instead of using pesticides, use natural pest eaters such as spiders and ladybugs, picking off pests by hand and natural pesticides made from plants.
If you have no alternative but to spray plants, only do so after dusk, since this is when pollinators are least active. Avoid using chemicals known to harm bees and never mix pesticides together, as doing so tends to increase their toxicity (to insects, humans and pets).
Avoid trying to attract or feed bees by putting sugar water, syrup or icing sugar out for bee feeding. Bees need healthy sources of food, not manufactured sweetness.
2. Plant bee-friendly flowers in your garden, courtyard, patio or balcony
To attract honey bees to your garden through flowers, focus on blues and purples, which bees prefer. Do research or ask a local nursery worker for suggestions and plants that thrive best in your location. Choose indigenous species since they attract more bees than exotic plants. Plants which attract bees often attract hummingbirds and butterflies as well.
3. Plant bee-friendly ground cover such as clover, thyme or creeping mint
To attract honey bees to your garden consider removing parts of your lawn in favour of herbs or flowering plants. Bees love flowers and herbs such as basil, borage, English lavender, hyssop, marjoram, rosemary and the aforementioned thyme, and it saves you having to mow the lawn! Use these in addition to indigenous plants.
4. Landscape your garden with fruit trees
Bees love the blossoms on fruit and nut trees, especially apples, cherries, peaches and almonds. Bees are also fond of the blossoms of some non-indigenous trees. Make sure, however, that these trees are not invasive species.
5. Plant bee-friendly vegetables in your garden,
Having vegetables, such as pumpkin and zucchini, that flower at different times of the year is a very good way to keep attracting honey bees to your garden.
6. Maintain open space to attract honey bees to your garden
Honey bees naturally prefer meadow habitats, so try to leave some parts of your garden wild. This will make your garden even more attractive to honey bees.
7. Provide shelter for your bees
Provide shelter such as rotting vegetation and stumps for the bees to create a hive and shelter for the winter.
8. Provide your bees with water
Bees like shallow pools of water; provide some for them but refresh regularly to avoid stagnation and keep a watch out for mosquito larvae!
9. Treat your bees with respect
Do not harass bees in their nests or when theyâ??re collecting nectar or pollen.
If you or a family member are allergic to bee-stings, be extremely careful. You might need to reconsider whether you want to attract honey bees to your garden. As a safety measure, have the allergic person take extra precautions such as wearing shoes, and/or having immediate access to antihistamine medication.
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