Cultivating a Bee Garden
By Sabrina Essery, Freelance Writer
All over the world, bees are facing a crisis. When the bees are in trouble, humans feel it, too- at least ¾ of the food we consume needs bees to reproduce.
Creating and cultivating a bee-friendly garden may not save an entire species, but one garden provides a huge amount of assistance! Whether your garden is housing bees or just helping them along the way, here’s a quick guide for creating a safe haven for these pollinators!
• Do your research to find out which flowers attract which bees. We like to say, “do your research” quite a lot in these blogs- but it really is important! Whether you’re making a big decision about your home or hoping to do something that will have an effect beyond your day-to-day life, you should have the most accurate information possible when it comes to both the process and the result. With creating a bee garden, you’ll need plants that offer both nectar and pollen. While you want to target bees that are most likely to be in your area, it isn’t a bad idea to cast a wide net and plant a large variety of plants.
• Make a bee house or two. These can be created with anything from an empty can or a milk carton to a handmade (non-cedar) wooden box. If you create a wooden house and decide to paint it, use zero-VOC paint. If you create more than one bee house, paint them different colours, so the residents are able to tell them apart. You’ll also need to fill the house with brown paper nest tubes- www.davidsuzuki.org provides great instructions on how to create and fill a bee house:
“Fill the box with layered stacks of brown paper nest tubes, which you can buy at a garden store. Cut the tubes to six inches (15.75 cm) long, closing the end with tape or a staple, or fold them in half. Commercial nest tubes are 5/16 of an inch (.79 cm) in diameter, the exact size of an HB pencil. Make your own by rolling a piece of brown paper around a pencil, then pinch off the end and seal it with tape.”
• Wherever you place your bee house(s), make sure it’s a well-protected spot that’s out of the rain. You’ll also want to either dig down to the level of clay under your garden, or place a bowl of wet clay under or near the house. Bees will need this to build and modify their homes!
• Make a bee bath. This can be easily accomplished by putting a few stones into a shallow dish of water. Change the water every so often if you’re worried about mosquitoes or bacteria.
• Do NOT use herbicides or pesticides, unless they are 100% natural. Aphids and other pests might be bothersome, but they will eventually be taken care of by the bees and other “good bugs”.
• Don’t restrict yourself to flowers- Bees are able to use all sorts of plants! This includes fruits & berries, vegetables, and herbs. Try to plant strategically, so that there is always something blooming in the garden. This will make sure that the bees never have to go hungry, and that they’re able to sustain themselves.