You may already know that bee populations are in decline around the world. But what you might not know is that you can play a role in safeguarding at-risk bee species from possible extinction, all while making your lawn a more colorful place.
Given their reputation for stinging, bees might not seem like the kind of guests you want to attract to your home. But an unprovoked bee poses little threat to most of us, and the benefits that bees bring far outweigh any risks.
Bees are prolific pollinators, and insect pollination is essential to the growth of plants and crops that we can sometimes take for granted. If the bee crisis worsens, it could have devastating effects on pollination-dependent crops we all love, like apples, peaches, watermelon and even coffee.
As a result of agricultural development, pesticide use, climate change and urbanization, more than half of North America’s native bee populations are in decline, according to a recent report from the Center for Biological Diversity. Nearly one quarter are at risk of extinction. Give your native bees a break by creating a little backyard oasis where they can eat, drink and rest.
Get Your Garden in Gear
To create the ideal bee garden, observe the following best practices:
Go big and go bright. Bees are attracted to bold, colorful flowers, especially those with purple, yellow and blue blooms. But if those colors are jumbled up like a kaleidoscope, they can be disorienting to your winged friends. Try to plant blooms of a single color in a solid block of about a square yard, which is optimal for a bee’s visual acuity.
Stick with native flowers where possible. You’re most likely to attract native bee species to your home, and the flowers they’re familiar with stand the best chance of enticing them to pollinate. Use the online guide at PlantNative to find flower options that are native to your area; just be sure to choose a combination of flowers that offer lots of pollen and nectar. Bees need pollen to feed their young, as well as nectar to keep themselves going as they hunt for more flowers.
Avoid all pesticides. The use of these chemicals is a major driver of population decline among bees, so go the natural route with your garden. Pesticides will kill off all insects, not just those that present a nuisance.
Provide a water source. Bees need access to fresh water and a place to land while drinking. A good solution is to erect a birdbath or place a large, shallow dish in your garden area, then fill the dish with a few large pebbles. As long as the pebbles reach above the surface of the water, it will be easy for the bees to get a drink. Be sure to replace the water daily!
Make shelter easy to find. Many bee species prefer to burrow into the ground, so be sure to leave some grassy areas open for those bees to make themselves at home. You can also purchase or build a bee hotel, which provides an easy place for bees to take shelter from wind and rain.
By creating a little bee paradise in your backyard, you can help fight back against the forces that are threatening bee populations -- and by extension, threatening all those crops that depend on natural pollination. For help with garden irrigation or any other household plumbing needs, you can always count on your licensed, local plumbers.