Home Makeover Edition: How Your Yard Can Become a Bee Oasis
Visiting the weekly Dillon Farmers Market is a popular pastime for many people. It’s the perfect opportunity to gather fresh, locally grown produce and support your community. But imagine a situation when farmers markets no longer exist. This is a potential scenario when you consider the plight of the bee.
Bees are responsible for the pollination of more than 100 crops, generating $15 billion each year in the U.S. alone. To put this statistic a little closer to home, one of every three bites of food you consume comes from a plant that was pollinated by a bee or other pollinator. Apples, oranges, blueberries, cherries, grapefruit, onions, cucumbers, pumpkins, avocados, and almonds are just a few of the crops that would take a devastating hit should the bee cease to exist. Now that the facts are out there, here are a few ways you can use the resources at your fingertips to push the bees in the right direction.
It is a little-known fact that bees need water, just like us. While you can’t water bees by sprinkling them with a hose, you can create a water garden. Collects rocks from your yard or nearby areas and place them in a shallow, wide bowl. Fill the bowl halfway, so that part of the rocks remain exposed, giving the bees a place to land. Place the bowl in your garden, or close to flowering plants, to make it easier to find. Green scum will inevitably develop, but there is no need to rinse it off, as it just makes it easier for the bees to locate.
You might be surprised to learn that bees use water for more than just drinking. During hot spring and summer months, they use the water to cool down the temperature of the hive. Bees strategically place the water in various locations within the hive, fanning their wings to create their own makeshift air conditioning system. In warmer months, a single hive can use up to one liter of water a day. In the colder months, it is used to de-crystallize the honey, and nurse bees require water to produce food to feed baby bees or larvae.
Start a Bee Garden
No, you can’t plant bee seeds and grow them, but you can start a bee garden to keep bees fed and facilitate pollination, continuing the cycle of the world’s food production. Your garden should offer variety, with plants that bloom successively during the months from March to October, which is bee season, to provide a continuous supply of pollen and nectar. Try to plant your flowers in larger patches to allow bees to feast in one area for a long period of time. Patch gardening is great for those who have a small space to work with, such as a small yard, patio, or balcony. Window boxes, potted plants, and hanging plants take up little space, and bees will be sure to love them.
The best flowers to plant are those native to your area, but avoid anything touting the word ‘double,’ as these plants are bred with extra petals, making it difficult for bees to access the pollen. Opt for single varieties in colors such as purple, blue, or yellow. Keep in mind that bees need two types of plants to survive – nectar plants and pollen plants. Pollen is used to feeding young bees, while adult bees feed on nectar to produce energy as they hunt for pollen. The following are suggestions for plants based on blooming season:
Nectar plants – Borage, lavender, sage, wisteria, bee plant
Pollen plants – Yarrow, California poppy, bush anemone
Combo – Daisy, marigold, tansy, blazing star, Bidens
Nectar plants – Basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, verbena
Pollen plants – Chaparral nightshade, tomato, yarrow, borage, California poppy
Combo – Black-eyed Susan, Bluebeard, daisy, goldenrod, blanket flower
Nectar plants – Rosemary, autumn sage, toadflax, verbena, yellow trumpet bush
Combo – bluebeard, cosmos, pumpkin, squash
The bees need our help and something as simple as putting out water and filling your yard with gorgeous blooms can make a difference. Next time you see a bee buzz by, whisper a word of thanks, as they work tirelessly to provide you with the fruits, veggies, and treats you love.