What you can do to help the bees

Bees are having some tough years. Inadequate foraging territory and poor nutrition are potential causes. What can you do about it? Quite a bit, it turns out.

Bess are in trouble. And that means we are too, because they are responsible for about a third of the food we eat. If they vanish, we probably wouldn’t starve, but they’re still an especially important part of our food chain.

That’s why home gardeners like you are inviting and nourishing bees by adding pollinator friendly plants to landscaping or in the vegetable garden. If you like that idea for your garden, here are a few things you can do.

1. Provide nectar and pollen. Bees need both nectar and pollen to survive. Nectar is used to make honey, which is a carbohydrate bees consume for quick energy. But careful observers of European honeybees will notice they have pollen-collecting sacks on their hind legs. The pollen is taken back to the hive and transformed to what is known as bee bread. As opposed to the quick, simple energy of honey, bee bread provides protein, fats, minerals, and vitamins. It’s a critical foodstuff especially for the youngest members of the hive making it critical for hives to continue to grow and prosper.

What’s good for the bees, can also be pleasant and useful to you: Easy to grow and a treat for the nose, members of the mint family are honeybee magnets. A number of herbs, including basil, thyme, lavender, lemon balm, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, sage, are all of the mint (Lamiaceae) family. So why not consider planting a scent garden that consists entirely of herbs that you and the bees can enjoy equally.

2. Keep it warm. Bees need warmth to work. They can’t even fly if temperatures are below 13°C and won’t be out and working until the thermometer hits 14°C. The sooner the sun hits your garden in the morning, the sooner the bees will be warm and become active.

3. Provide protection. Wind can be problematic for bees as it can make accurate flight difficult and disperses the fragrance attracting them to their food source. If your garden is somewhat sheltered from wind, the fragrance of the nectar will linger, and you’ll see more bee activity.

A windbreak of shrubs, trees, or a building can help counter the wind and provide shade in the afternoon. Bees don’t like it too hot and will stop working above 38°C – a little afternoon shade can give them more hours to collect vital nectar and pollen.

4. Create continuous bloom. Bees need to collect food from early spring through late fall to support a healthy hive. If you want to be a full-season host for honeybees, it’s critical to always have food available to them which means planting a variety of flowers. Make sure your plan includes plants that bloom at different times throughout the season – check out our “Your garden: In full bloom all season long” article for more tips on that.

5. Shelve certain pesticides. Some pesticides are detrimental to bees – you may want to use something else when you can. An insecticidal soap may be a better option for controlling pests like aphids.

You see, it’s not that hard to create a bee-friendly garden where you’re working side by side with these industrious and essential insects. By the way, generally, unless they’re accidently crushed or swatted, bees will go about their business and leave you alone. However, you may want to avoid strong smelling perfumes, hairsprays or other fragrances which might attract confused bees to your person when they’re seeking out nectar.