Everyone knows those fuzzy, flying insects that buzz around their backyard or garden–– honeybees. But these helpful pollinators are at risk of extinction, largely due to humans. Bees are one of the most prolific pollinators on earth, so we need to do everything we can to help out our buzzy friends. So here are 9 ways you can help save the bees in your yard.
Thankfully, you don’t need to become a professional beekeeper to help save your area’s native bees. There are plenty of ways you can help out in your yard or garden, many of which only require minimal effort. Read on for some helpful tips on how to help save the bees in your yard.
1. Avoid chemicals
One of the biggest ways to help bee populations in your outdoor space is to avoid any harmful pesticides. These can hurt the bees and taint the nectar they bring back to the hive, therefore contaminating their honey. Neonicotinoids are especially harmful to bees, even in small amounts.
Non-toxic alternatives should be used in their place. For example, introduce natural predators that can help control garden pests, such as helpful ladybugs or green lacewings.
Practicing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) can also help minimize pesticide use. IPM is an approach to pest control that involves habitat manipulation, cultural control, and biological control with minimal use of pesticides.
Be careful with organic pesticides. While these products are typically safe for the environment, exposure to these natural chemicals can still put some pollinators at risk, especially if the pesticide is poorly handled.
2. Pollinator garden
Another great way to help your area’s bees is to make your backyard or garden a welcoming place for them. Bee-friendly gardens are beautiful and a great benefit for your local ecosystem. Here are a few tips for crafting your outdoor space into a sanctuary for bees and other pollinators, along with some bee-friendly plants to put in it.
- Don’t weed. This might seem counterintuitive, but skipping the weeding helps pollinator gardens. Weeds are an additional food source for bees and provide cover that will shield the soil from the elements. Many also have deep roots that draw in nutrients from lower layers and improve the soil quality. Even if you don’t want them mingling with your other flowers, keeping dandelions and other “weed” plants in a dedicated space in your pollinator garden is a good way to help the bees.
- Plant native. Native plants and wildflowers are much more attractive to pollinators like bees and hummingbirds than non-native ones. They also grow better, don’t need as much attention, and are a better food source.
- Keep colors in mind. Choose flowers with bright hues, as these are the most attractive. Keeping same-colored flowering plants in groups is another good way to help them be more noticeable to pollinators.
- Stagger your blooms. Plant flowers that bloom during different times of year so that your pollinator friends have a food source year-round.
- Trees. Flowers aren’t the only plants to put in your pollinator garden. Trees are another source of pollen and nectar for bees, especially fruit trees. Bees also use trees to make their hives.
Pollinator garden plants:
- Maple trees
- Fruit trees
- Crape Myrtle trees
- Linden trees
- Magnolia trees
- Tulip trees
- Bee balm flowers
- Primrose flowers
- Lavender flowers
- Rosemary flowers
- Sage flowers
- Goldenrod flowers
3. Water source
Another important way to help your local bees is to provide a water source. Everything needs water, including bees. Leaving out some water for them is another big help so that they can hydrate while they’re gathering nectar and spreading pollen. When putting out a water source, keep in mind that it has to be designed with bees in mind, so don’t break out the birdbath just yet.
A bee bath needs to be shallow, as they may fall in and drown otherwise. Use a shallow dish with some rocks in it, with the rocks sticking out of the water. This will give bees a place to land and can help them climb back out of the water if they fall in. Make sure to change the water periodically so that it doesn’t attract mosquitoes.
4. Limit the raking
A surprising way to help bees is to ignore some leaves come the fall season. During this time and into the winter, numerous critters use the leaves on the ground to hibernate or lay eggs, including bees. The queens of some species of bee hibernate in holes in the ground, and leaves provide important cover and warmth. Raking leaves disturbs an entire ecosystem, displaces countless insects, and disturbs their life cycles.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to ignore leaves entirely. If a thick layer of wet leaves is smothering your grass, you’ll want to swiftly remove them before your lawn dies.
5. Bee house
If you want to take a more direct approach to helping your area’s bees, one way is to install an outdoor bee house, also called a bee hotel. These are mainly for solitary bee species such as mason bees and leafcutter bees (both of which are excellent pollinators) and not bumble bees or honeybees. A bee house is essentially a container filled with long tubes for bees to lay their larvae in. They’re typically placed in trees.
You can buy bee houses commercially, but not all of them are safe for bees. It may be better to make your own. When making and putting out a bee house, there are a few things you need to keep in mind to ensure it’s safe for the bees.
Bee house tips:
- Materials. Bee houses need to be made of breathable materials so that they don’t retain too much moisture, which will lead to parasites, diseases, and fungus. Paper straws are good if you’re making your own. Bamboo is a definite no-no, as it’s very slow to dry, but other types of natural wood should work.
- Bring it inside. During the wintertime, bee houses should be brought indoors to a garage or shed if possible to protect the larvae from the cold and elements. It can be brought back outside during spring.
- Clean between seasons. In spring, when the bee house is abandoned, it should be thoroughly cleaned. Change the paper straws if you use them, and provide fresh wood and nesting materials.
- Protect the house. If left unguarded, bee houses can become feeding grounds for woodpeckers and other birds. Protect it with some metal netting that bees can get through but birds can’t.
- Fix it firmly. While a bee house is outdoors, it’s very important that it’s firmly affixed to whatever it’s hung from so that it doesn’t rattle about in the wind. If not, it will be difficult for bees to land, and their larvae may come loose.
- Keep it dry. Make sure your bee house has an overhang to protect it from wind and rain.
- Place in the sun. Put the bee house in an area where it will get plenty of sun and is facing the sunrise so they will warm up quickly. If a bee house gets too much shade, it may attract predatory wasps.
6. Support beekeepers
One way you can help the bees without altering your garden or landscaping is to support the people who support them. Buying honey from your local beekeepers helps both them and their bees. Local honey from a beekeeper is also much better quality than the honey you’ll find mass-produced from a grocery store.
You can make donations to your local beekeeper or beekeeping organization if they take them. Every little bit helps, whether it’s a monetary donation, time, or supplies and equipment.
7. Teach the children
Another very important way to help save the bees is to educate children about them. Teaching children to respect and help the bees ensures that future generations will keep working to save these vital pollinators.
8. Shrink the lawn
Another way you can help the bees in your area is to shrink your grass lawn. Grass lawns are spaces with no nectar or pollen to be had for bees. A bee in the middle of a suburban lawn may as well be in the Sahara desert. When there are entire neighborhoods of lawns, it adds up to a lot of barren space.
There are plenty of ways you can turn your lawn into a bee-friendly area while keeping it beautiful. A ground-cover plant like clover or thyme can give you the same green space while being an amazing food source for bees.
You can also put in a meadow lawn that will be a beautiful outdoor space along with a lush oasis for bees, one without all the upkeep a grass lawn needs.
9. Relocate troublesome bees
Bees sometimes get where they’re not supposed to be. Inside walls, for example, in a shed, or maybe an outdoor trash can. Regardless of where, a hive anywhere it’s not supposed to be is a big problem that needs to be dealt with. Instead of dealing with them yourself or, heaven forbid, trying to exterminate them, contact a professional to remove them safely so that they can be safely relocated.
Your local pest control company can put you in contact with professionals who will safely remove any bees that are giving you trouble. Local beekeepers can also help you relocate a hive that’s established itself anywhere it’s not supposed to be.
FAQ about bees
If you absolutely cannot have bees around your home or garden, there are still things you can do to help them. Donations to beekeepers and organizations are always welcome. Buying bee-safe products such as organic produce and pesticide-free flowers can also support bees without having to go near them.
It’s possible, yes. Many of the same things that attract bees also attract more vicious flying insects such as hornets and wasps. These bugs will prey on honeybees and other helpful bee species, so it’s important that you keep a close eye out for them in your bee-friendly outdoor space.
Leave it alone. Queen bees do leave their beehives sometimes, so this is not a cause for alarm, and if you try to take it back to its hive, you might get the wrong one, and the colony will kill the unfamiliar queen. That bee can take care of itself so long as you don’t interfere.
What’s the buzz?
If you want to help the bees by turning your yard or garden into a buzzing hangout spot, consult your local landscaping professionals and local gardening experts. If you have trouble with bees in your home or anywhere else they’re not wanted, contact your local pest control professionals for safe and humane bee removal.
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