Helping the Bees in Your Garden

Bees are very important for pollination of our flowers, trees and our food. Bee populations have been threatened by many factors including: mites and Neonicotinoids, an insecticide.  Here are some tips for helping the bees in your garden.

1. Know the Difference Between a Bee and a Wasp

Many people confuse the two and do not want bees in their yard for fear of getting stung. Most bees will not sting unless they are really provoked. Wasps  on the other hand, can be territorial, and can sting in  defense of their territory. Wasps are also the insects that build the large papery nests on overhangs and in trees. Click here to learn more about the differences and what to do if you get stung.

2. Learn About What Bees Will Visit Your Yard

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"4303","attributes":{"class":"media-image aligncenter wp-image-3714","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","width":"287","height":"269","alt":"bee on chive flower (4)"}}]]

There are over 800 species of bees in Canada. The most common visitors to your yard include: Bumble Bee: Our favourite. A solitary bee that is probably the most recognizable bee. They are very easy going and are too busy going from flower to flower to bother with humans. Despite this, studies have shown that they can learn to recognize people's faces! Carpenter Bee: Look very close to a Bumble bee, except that its abdomen is not fuzzy like a Bumble bees is. Honey Bee: Brought over by European settlers to establish hives in North America for honey production. Other types of bees: Cellophane, Masked, Sweat, Pearly-banded, Leafcutter, Orchard, Mason, Mining, Sweat, Squash and Plasterer bee.

3. Choose Bee Friendly Plants for Your Yard

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"4304","attributes":{"class":"media-image aligncenter wp-image-3095","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","width":"287","height":"224","alt":"bee on dandelion small"}}]]

  • Make sure you buy plants that are neonicotinoid-free.
  • Plan to have plants flowering from early spring to late fall to make sure the bees have a good source of food all season long.
  • Include some native plants for the bees and other pollinators.
  • Avoid double or triple bloom flower cultivars. The extra blooms can block the bees from getting to the nectar.

Perennials:

  • Asters, Black Eyed Susan, Blazing-star (Liatris spp.), Catmint (Walkers-Lo is better behaved and won't wander), Clover (in your lawn), Coneflower/Echinacea, Dandelions (yep, they are a great early spring food source for bees), Giant Hyssop, Globe Thistle, Goldenrod (there are many varieties, and they are not to blame for hay fever)

Flowering Tree and Shrubs:

  • Apple, Cherries, Lilac, Linden, Pear, Pieris, Plum, Potentilla, Spirea, Viburnum, Weigela

3. Provide Shelter and Nesting Sites

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"4305","attributes":{"class":"media-image aligncenter wp-image-3713","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","width":"287","height":"217","alt":"Bee"}}]]

  • Provide areas  of open, undisturbed soil that is south facing, warm and well-drained for ground-nesting bees.
  • Clear mulch away from a few areas of your garden to allow ground-nesting bees access to the soil. Choose a well drained, sunny spot.
  • Logs and old stumps in sunny areas are good for bees that nest in cavities or consider a bee nesting structure, which are available at most garden centres.
  • Some bees will overwinter in plant stems so leave your garden clean up until the spring, after the bees have finished hibernating.
  • Allow some leaf litter to remain in your garden to create an overwintering site for bumble bees.
  • Don't forget a water source for the bees!

5. Buy Local Honey

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"4306","attributes":{"class":"media-image aligncenter wp-image-3740","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","width":"287","height":"200","alt":"i-love-honey-bees-Free Images Honey"}}]]

The local bee keepers tend to their bee colonies and keep a watchful eye on their health. When you buy local honey and other related products, you are supporting the bee keepers and the bees.

6. Learn more about the Wonderful World of Bees and the Threats They Face.

The more you learn, the better you are able to protect them. Here are some great resources on Bees:

For more information on population decline: