Bees are responsible for the pollination of many of the fruits, nuts and vegetables we eat.
Blueberries, strawberries, apples, cucumbers, almonds and melons all need bees to help spread their pollen. Here's a few projects to make your garden more pollinator-friendly that you can tackle in the Winter time.
Photo of my bee hotel. My husband made it for me as a birthday gift one year! We've mostly seen leaf cutter bees move in.
Make a Bee Hotel
A bee hotel is a nesting site for bees that live in tunnels. Two very common tunnel-nesting bees are leaf cutters and mason bees. These solitary bees are very calm and great pollinators of fruits and veggies!
You can buy a bee hotel or make one fairly easily from items found at a hardware or craft store. It's a great project to do with kids. You can learn how to make a bee hotel in our Bee Hotel blog post. Below are some bee hotel designs that I love, not just because they're cute, but because they're simple and small. It's better to make a few small hotels to put around your garden, then one large hotel.
Leave the Leaves
70% of all bees are ground nesting bees. These solitary bees create a tunnel in the ground where they lay their eggs. You can help these bees by allotting an area of your yard or garden for them. Simply leave the leaves and sticks where they are and don't disturb the area.
It can be as simple as that, but its best if you section off the area in some way. A few ways you can do this is by painting rocks and placing them around the area, laying stepping stones (Making stepping stones is a fun Winter time art project!) or make a sign and attach the post in a potted plant by the area. I always think I'll remember where it is and then 6 months later I forget and rake the leaves from that spot. You won't be attacked by bees if you disturb the area, but an important part to leaving a site for ground nesting bees is that you don't disturb it for at least a few months, but preferably years.
Plan for the Spring
Now is a great time to research what to plant, so you're ready for Spring. The best flowers to plant for bees are ones that bloom in the early Spring and late Summer/Fall. This is when bees are desperate to find food.
Flowers to Plant for Bees
Some great early spring flowers are crocus, grape hyacinth, primrose, heather, apple tree, blue bell, star magnolias, pussy willow, maple trees (except Asian ornamental varieties), snowdrops, scilla, witch hazel, and winter jasmine. Great late Summer and early Fall flowers to plant are goldenrod, sunflowers, cosmos, boltonia, purple top vervain, basil, borage, broccoli, and calendula, luffa, marigold.
Planting for bees tips:
- Cut back on the varieties. Honeybees prefer to gather nectar from one kind of flower as opposed to visiting any flower they can find that has nectar in it. Plant a bunch of one kind of flower as opposed to a wide variety of flowers.
- Avoid hybrids because they tend to not produce as much nectar.
- Go native. Do some extra research and figure out what plants are native to your area. When you plant native flowers, you'll help the native pollinators. A great place to start your research is by going to xerces.org. They have a planting guide according to state.
Photo of my friend inspecting our very first beehive.
Be a Beekeeper
Thinking about becoming a beekeeper? The best time to start is in the Fall or early Winter. This will give you ample time to learn and take a class. Order your supplies and bees in the late Winter and start in the Spring. Check out our free guide, The 7 Steps to Getting Started Keeping Bees for more information on how to get started beekeeping.
Make a Pollinator Sign
Spread the word that you have made a commitment to helping the bees by making a sign for your yard. It's a great conversation starter with neighbors who want to learn how they can help the bees. Here are some pollinator signs I love.
Want to Learn More About Bees & How to Help Them?
- Why the bee population is in decline.
- Learn Bee Biology in The Buzz About Bees podcast.
- Watch the documentary, More Than Honey.
Want to learn more about beekeeping?
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