Did you know that bees, birds, butterflies and other pollinators are responsible for 85% of pollinating the planet’s flowers? Our Honey Bees are also responsible for more than a third of the food we eat. Our local grocery store shelves would be looking quite sparse without the help of the bees.
Since the bees are taking care of us we need to take care of them by offering them nectar and pollen rich flowers for them to feed on when they visit our landscapes. Gardens that are frequently visited by pollinators are both healthy and beautiful. If you give the bees what they need you will be able to see your landscape bloom livelier than ever.
The three main bees that you see pollinating your landscapes will be the Blue Orchard Bee or also referred to as a Mason Bee (Osmia ligaria), Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) and the Gentle Giant of Bees, the American Bumble Bee (Bombus pennsylvanicus).
Mason Bees takes the sting right out of beekeeping. They have no stinger. They are a very docile and hardworking bee. Each Mason Bee can do as much pollinating work of 120 Honey Bees or Bumble Bees. The reason why they can do all this work is because they do not have a hive to maintain, a queen or honey to protect. The only thing they have to do is collect pollen that will feed the babies in late Winter and early Spring.
As your fruit trees start to bloom in late Winter or early Spring the Mason Bees start to emerge even when the temperatures are still cold and long before the honey bees become active. Mason bees are constantly on the prowl for a place to make a home. They love to use holes and tunnels that other insects have abandoned. You can even purchase Mason Bee Houses or make one yourself. You can find your Mason Bee supplies at your local garden center or nursery.
The Honey Bee is the mainstay in the world of agriculture. They originally came to the New World from Europe when the early colonists settled in America. Many subspecies came from Russia, Italy and Slovenia. All members of the species are used for their honey production. The range for the Honey Bee now covers the entire North American continent. They can be found all over the United States and are bred commercially too. Unfortunately the Honey Bee and Bumble Bee populations are declining. Habitat loss, pesticides use, pollution and mites are just a few reasons why.
American Bumble Bee. This bee is a classic summertime friend, doing more good for the plants than harm to people. I love to pet a Bumble Bee. When they land on a flower they are so busy collecting pollen or drinking nectar that they will not pay any attention to you. Very lightly, you can touch them. They may kick up their leg or two but most of the time they won’t sting you. Speaking from experience, never catch them in your hands. You are asking for trouble then.
Bumble bees are industrious pollinators. I love to watch them forage in a meadow or on my Rugosa Roses for the pollen to make honey that will sustain them in the colder months.
When planting a Bee Garden you will want to do it in layers. In the back plant tall flowers like Echinacea, Rudbeckia, Sunflowers and Asters. When considering the middle layer try Nepeta, Achillea, Phacelia and Coreopsis. For your front layer, look for plants that are low, like California Poppies, Herbs, Bidens and Sedum. This is just a quick list of plant material. The choices are endless. I hope this has inspired you to plant a Bee Garden.