Cold Weather Projects to Make Your Garden Bee Friendly
Bees are responsible for the pollination many of the fruits, nuts and vegetables we eat. Blueberries, strawberries, apples, cucumbers, almonds and melons all need bees to help spread their pollen. As a gardener, there's a lot we can do to help the bees and attract them to our garden. Now that it's getting cooler out, here's a few great projects to tackle.
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. Here's some bee hotels we love.
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 can section the area off in some way. A few ways you can do this is by painting rocks and placing them around the area, making stepping stones or make a little sign and stick 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 this area, but an important part to leaving a site for ground nesting bees is that you don't disturb the nest.
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. 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.
A few additional thing to consider when planting for bees:
- Plant flowers in groups. Honeybees have an action called flower fidelity. This means that they prefer to gather nectar from one kind of flower as opposed to visiting any flower they can find that has nectar. Because of this, they are really great pollinators. Plant a bunch of one kind of flower as opposed to a wide variety of different kinds of flowers.
- Avoid hybrids because they tend to not produce as much nectar.
Do some more 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.
Be a Beekeeper
Thinking about becoming a beekeeper? The best time to start is in the Fall so you have ample time to learn and take a class. Order your supplies and bees in the winter and start in the Spring. Check out our free guide, The 7 Steps to Getting Started Keeping Bees. Click here and we'll email it to you.
Make a Pollinator Sign
Spread the word to your neighbors 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 more about how they can help the bees. Here are some pollinator signs we love.
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