I recently attended a wonderful workshop on pollinators–these are the creatures who pollinate our flowers, and our crops – both fruit and vegetable. 85 per cent of flowering plants require an insect to move the pollen. Butterflies and bees are both pollinators but bees, however, are the most important ones. Bees actively collect and transport pollen. 80 per cent of the world’s almond crop is dependent on bees.
Since bees are vital to our gardens, it is important to create an environment that is safe and attractive to them. Our garden design as well as very careful use of pesticides and herbicides can make our yards havens for bees. Include flowers with attractive color and fragrance. Bees are attracted to blue, yellow, purple, violet and white. Bees can not see the color red (red looks like black to them). Provide season long sources of pollen and nectar by growing flowers year round and including early and late season flowers to provide a food source. Mass your flowers. In a small area plant a mass of one flower; thus increasing visibility to the pollinator is making it easier for the bees to search for nectar. Include a wide variety of flowers to attract many different pollinators. If you have a vegetable garden, it is important to create a habitat close to your crops and gardens as small bees may fly less then 500 feet and bumble bees may not fly more than a mile. An abundance of different flowers will increase the kinds of bees in your gardens. Keeping at least three things blooming at all times is terrific. Use locally native plants to support your bees population. Unfortunately, some of our newest hybrids are bred for beauty and are not necessarily attractive to bees; many of the old fashioned flowers make wonderful bee lures. It is not hard to attract bees; if you plant what they like, you will hear the humming of happy bees. Additionally, providing a source of water in the garden is a good thing.
Aside from choosing your plants to attract bees, the gardener must also limit pesticide use in the garden. Our mantra should be less is best! One of the worst chemicals for bees is sevin. Keeping plants healthy helps them to repel insects and disease. If you have to spray a pesticide, spray late in the day when the bees are not out. Use a liquid form of a chemical instead of a dust. Check all the ingredients on the label to be sure you know what you are spraying.
Additional hints for a bee friendly garden involve a bit of an attitude adjustment for the gardener: develop a tolerance for weeds; learn to love less than perfect in the garden. Make your garden inviting to beneficial insects so they can help with any bad insects pests.
A few simple steps and we can encourage bees, butterflies, and other pollinators to call our gardens home; our world will be a better place for the humans too.
Thank you to Extension Agent Dani Carroll whose information was the inspiration for this blog.
This has been the strangest spring (and it is not officially over for three weeks). I might call it the spring that almost did not happen. It was chilly one day; then the monsoons struck, and now the heat and humidity have set in. Farmers shook their heads as they worked to get gardens plowed and crops in. For us home gardeners, we waited much later than usual to add summer color to our yards. Warm weather annuals are, for the most part tropical in nature, and are not really fond of wet cold earth. Hydrangeas are blooming about three weeks later than usual (although that is not always a bad thing as they were not hit by one of those freak late frosts that sometime happen). Our friends in the mid-west have endured terrible tragedies brought about by weather events. Hurricane forecasters say this will be a busy summer. But we who love our gardens and growing things will deal with whatever strange weather conditions come our way. We will be married to our hoses if late summer droughts come. If the weather is wet and humid, we will take care of plant diseases brought about by inclement conditions. And we will continue to smile.