Attracting Native Bees to your Yard and Garden
A Conservation Guide
Bees, like all living things are attracted to places that can provide them with the basic necessities for life and reproduction, Water, Food, Shelter and Mating Partners. Conservation of the many different species of indigenous bees we have on the North Shore is simply helping to provide the bees with the opportunity to find these things in your yard or garden, and then leaving these places undisturbed to allow the bees the chance to build up a sustainable population in that area. These basic bees needs can be provided for in many different ways and can become successful nesting sites for the native bees even in very small scales. The creation of a “Bee-Friendly” habitat in your yard and garden can be as simple as introducing some lasting food sources and nesting materials into an area which will remain undisturbed throughout the growing season. Each of our many native bee species have differing bees needs but generally require a secure nest site in a sunny location, a constant water source, and various types of forage plants that can supply them with both the nectars (sugars) they need for energy and the pollen (proteins) that they need for rearing their offspring.
10 ways to help create a “BeeFriendly” Garden
1) - Learn more about the bees indigenous to your area, their life-cycle and their bee’s needs! (see native bees)
2) - Do not use pesticides, insecticides, herbicides or artificial chemical fertilizers in your yard or garden as the lasting effects of these will be the most damaging to the bee’s ability to rear their young. These chemical treatments often prove fatal to local bee populations due to toxins that the the bees will accidentally collect and feed to their off-spring when foraging on the available pollen sources and water supply.
3) - Use variety of different plant types that will bloom throughout the growing season as this will help to provide a constant source of food for the bees and other pollinators in your garden.
4) – The use of native plant types can be the one of the greatest attractors of bees to your garden as native bee and native plant species have an established partnership for mutual survival which has lasted for millions of years. Exotic and Hybrid type plants, being bred for color or shape and size, will often have little or no value as a source of pollen and nectar for our native pollinators. Native and Heritage plant types can be used effectively in your yard and garden to provide both an attractive and a sustainable habitat for our local bees.
5) - Limit the use of mulch materials, weed barriers, and artificial ground covering systems as most species of native bees require access to undisturbed ,sandy soils to create their nesting tunnels.
6) - Compost and prune your hollow and pithy stemmed plants less regularly or only every second or third year. This will help to provide stem and tube nesting bees an opportunity to complete their annual reproductive life-cycles without having their nest sites accidentally destroyed and composted.
7) - Don’t mow so often, leave some leaf litter and stems until spring, allowing the natural processes to complete their cycles will benefit all the hidden pollinators and attractors in your garden by allowing them the time they need to complete their annual life-cycles. Bees need weeds too!
8) - Introduce lasting natural or native features to your garden that can provide nesting material or nesting sites for the smaller native bees. Some of our small native bee species nest in the tunnels they find in old stumps and logs created by other wood boring insects. Supplies of wet mud or clay are also needed by numerous native bee species to build sealed chambers inside their nesting tunnels to protect their eggs and developing off-spring through the winter months until the following spring.
9) - Create artificial nesting sites in your garden areas with small bundles of hollow or pithy stemmed plants(1/8 to 5/16 inch diam. x 8 to 12 inch long) or artificial nest boxes as many species of native bees will readily take up residence in man-made nest boxes and establish annual populations in your yard. Mason bee boxes are available in many local shops and stores which are also quite effective at housing many other species of native bees.Orchard bees, Leaf-cutting bees, Resin bees, and Carding bees have all been found residing in artificial nesting boxes in the North shore area.
10) - Wait for the bees each spring before you start up your yearly planting and gardening activities! Almost all of our indigenous bees remain in their winter “hibernation cycle” until there a good supply of forage(plants in bloom) before emerging to begin their mating and nesting cycles. Native bees generally begin their their annual pollination activities in the early to mid spring (April/May) when day time temperatures start to become steady around 14*C, with some our more hardy and robust Bumble Bee types making an even earlier appearance.