As bee populations across the world face an uncertain future, more and more home gardeners are wondering what they can do to help out their local pollinators. Let’s be honest: not everyone has the means, equipment, or temperament to become backyard beekeepers. However, creating and maintaining a bee-friendly garden is a relatively simple task. With a little research and creativity, almost anyone can do it! Here are some tips to get you started:
Mix Things Up
As the old saying goes, “Variety is the spice of life.” While it may be tempting to pick out your favorite type of flower and plant dozens of them all over the place, offering a large variety of blossoms will increase your chances of attracting bees. That’s not to say that quantity doesn’t matter at all; bees really are drawn to gardens that are dense with flowers (as opposed to areas with a few scattered plants here and there). But just as humans have varying tastes when it comes to food, different bee species prefer different kinds of nectar. If you opt to plant a variety of flowers, you’ll be able to offer a little something to everyone. Furthermore, if you take care to plant flowers that bloom during different seasons, bees will visit to your garden year-round.
Bee-friendly flora native to north Texas include:
- Aromatic aster
- Gray goldenrod
- Evening primrose
- Texas bluebonnet
- Texas kidneywood
- Texas lantana
And here are a few non-native plants that bees adore:
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by choices or aren’t sure which flowers go well together, don’t be afraid to take a trip to your local plant nursery or garden center. Mention to an expert that you’re trying to create a bee-friendly garden, and they’ll be more than happy to point you in the right direction.
Build a Bee Bath
Bees do a lot of roaming over the course of their day. Though many humans would balk at the idea of walking two miles to the grocery store and back to get food, bees frequently travel this distance—and more—in their quest for nectar and pollen. Long journeys may leave little bees tired and thirsty, but finding a good place to stop and rest can be tricky: predators are often afoot at water sources, and even small bodies of water can present a drowning hazard.
If you’d like to provide a sort of “desert oasis” for local bees, one way to do it is to put a bee bath in your garden or yard. These waterers aren’t difficult to make; constructing one is as simple as finding a shallow dish, tossing in some marbles or stones, and pouring enough water into the dish that the cracks between the marbles are filled. When an exhausted bee happens upon the bath, it can easily land on top of a marble and then get a drink of water without running the risk of drowning. Refill the dish regularly, and you’ll probably get plenty of visitors to your backyard cantina.
No Yard? No Problem!
If you currently live in an apartment or a condo, you may not have enough yard space for a flower garden. In fact, if you live in a large housing complex, you may not have much of a yard at all. But don’t despair: you can still flex your green thumb by installing a flower box on your balcony railing or the exterior side of a window. Many bee-friendly plants can grow and thrive just fine in a box (as opposed to in the ground), and bees don’t have a problem flying upward in order to reach them. You can even add a bee bath or two, provided that you can find a dish small enough to fit the space.
Your garden-in-a-box won’t be a full-fledged arboretum, but it’ll almost certainly beautify your living space, and the local bee population will be delighted all the same!
Humans are often distressed by the presence of wild animals and pest insects on their property, but bees are one type of critter that (non-allergic) humans should welcome with open arms. And one of the best ways to do this is to plant bee-friendly flowers and leave out bee baths. Even if your “yard” is only a box of potting soil, we can all do our part.
The bottom line? Bees are tremendously helpful to human agriculture and the ecosystem as a whole. So let’s help them help us.
Tony Darrah is the owner of Chimney & Wildlife Specialists, an owner-operated business that offers chimney inspection/repair/installation services and animal removal solutions in the Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston areas. While C & W Specialists doesn’t handle bee relocation, we can take on practically anything else winged or furry. For more information, please visit our website at chimneyandwildlife.com.