How to Create a Bee-Friendly Garden

Published by Bucks Country Gardens in Bucks Country Gardens

Bees in the gardenBees are extremely important insects that pollinate many of our favorite edibles and ornamental plants. Approximately 4,000 described bee species exist in North America with more than 300 species in Pennsylvania alone. Creating a bee garden is fun and exciting and a great project for kids! Children love sunflowers, as do bees and birds.

Create diversity with color. Some creatures may be color blind, but not bees. The more color and variety of flowers in your garden, the more bees you’ll attract. In fact, bees are particularly fond of blue, purple, yellow and white flowers.

Native plants are always a great choice for attracting native bees, but many ornamental flowers will also help feed and support the bee population.

Plant your flowers in clusters. Larger groupings of flowers attract more bees. Even if you only have a small garden or a few containers to plant in, it will be beneficial to local foraging bees.

When selecting your plants, plan for a succession of blooms–spring, summer and fall. This will ensure that bees have a reason to return to your backyard monthbee on foxglove after month. Bees also prefer to forage in sunny areas protected from wind. Sunny spots produce the most prolific flowers as well. You can also plant flowers in the vegetable garden as it will help increase pollination of your vegetables for a better crop.

You can also help by placing a Mason Bee House in your garden to boost pollination levels. Mason bees are incredible pollinators. Each one visits as many as 1,000 blooms per day. And finally, it is important for the bees to have a water source so add a birdbath, shallow bowl with water or a fountain to your bee garden.

Ten Most Favorite Plants of Bees:

1. Anise hyssop
2. Bee balm
3. Borage
4. Calendula
5. Catmint
6. Crocus
7. Foxglove
8. Heliotrope
9. Lavender
10. Sedum

honeybees-infographicPesticides & Pollinators
Lately there has been a lot of commentary in the media over the declining bee population and how that problem relates to the use of pesticides, and more specifically neonicotinoids. Dr. Joe Bischoff of American Hort says, “Growing plants, tending crops, and managing greenhouses and landscapes are roles for responsible stewards, and our industry’s access to and use of insecticides must be approached with the same level of respect. Neonicotinoids are insecticides, capable of killing various insects, and, when used appropriately and as directed by the approved EPA labels, they are useful tools in the fight against invasive insect species and in ongoing efforts to manage pests.”

Neonicotinoids are a Pennsylvania gardener’s main line of defense against invasive species such as Japanese Beetles and Asian Longhorned Beetles, so being aware of proper use is important in finding the balance between supporting the bee population while combatting pests.

Another problem that the world is facing in regard to bees is Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Colony Collapse Disorder is defined as a dead colony with no adult bees but with a live queen and usually honey and immature bees still present. According to the US Department of Agriculture, no scientific cause for CCD has been proven but there are many different theories ranging from deformed wing virus to incorrect pesticide use to nutrition problems from lack of diversity in pollen and nectar sources. More likely than not, “the condition may be a result of a combination of two or more of these factors and not necessarily the same factors in the same order in every instance,” as noted on their website.

Without knowing the direct cause of CCD, taking precautionary measures in your garden and landscape can go a long way in ensuring a bee population for future generations. If honey bees are present in your garden and landscape, do not use a neonicotinoid pesticide on flowering plants or blooming weeds. And, before applying any pesticide, read the directions carefully. Make sure to apply chemicals in the evening when bees are less active and many flower buds are closed. Consider creating a separate garden specifically to attract bees, and include a wide range of flowers and plants to support the nutritional needs of the bees.


Originally published in the Spring 2015 issue of Picket Fences.

David Jones | Horticulturalist, Arborist, & Customer Service Specialist
Nancy McIlvaine | Hardgoods Manager