What can homeowners do to help the bees? Bees are essential to our food supply and need every bit of help they can get including what we can do for them in our own yards and gardens.
What not to use on your lawn and garden to protect bees
Pesticides are the worst thing you can do for bees on your lawn. When you use pesticides you put a bee-killing substance over a large section of your property making it more likely bees will come in contact with them. Instead, treat any pest invasion naturally like using grits to get rid of ants in your yard without harming bees. Remember common pesticides are why bees are in danger, to begin with.
Do not use plants from big box stores. When big-box stores bring plants in from another state they have to be sprayed with chemical pesticides to reduce the chance of spreading invasive insects from state to state. Instead, opt to use plants from a local nursery. Not only are these nurseries starting their plants in the state avoiding the need for pesticides they are also usually small businesses that we can feel good for supporting.
Do not use herbicides. While a monoculture lawn with lush green grass may be the norm in many communities this is really bad for bees that rely on weeds like dandelions in the early weeks of spring to provide them with food before most other flowers bloom. Let the weeds live for a bee-friendly yard.
What can I do to attract bees to my garden?
Plant more flowers
The most important thing you can plant in your garden to help attract bees and provide them with food is FLOWERS. Flowers provide bees with nectar and pollen for building their homes and feeding their colonies. For honey bees, this can also be for feeding us. Here are a few of my favorite flowers to grow for attracting bees to my garden. The more bees come visit and pollinate the more your garden will produce making the choice to grow more flowers in your garden for the bees mutually beneficial. For the best results plant things that will bloom in varying times of year to provide food for the bees as long as possible.
Calendula or pot marigold is one of my favorite flowers to grow in my garden. These flowers help to repel mosquitoes that like to bite when we spend summer nights outside. While protecting us from biting insects they also protect our garden from aphids and other common pests by attracting beneficial insects to our garden like ladybugs.
Coneflower is also known as echinacea is one of my favorite flowers to grow in my garden. This perennial attracts bees and butterflies. When a butterfly lands, it looks like the butterfly is a little fairy wearing a skirt. This herb is great for making an immune-boosting tea, putting it on my list of the best medicinal herbs to grow in your garden.
There are so many uses for lavender making it an invaluable herb to grow in your garden. I love to grow large pots of lavender by the doors to help repel insects from getting into our home. The same effect can be achieved by placing large pots of lavender and lemongrass at the corners of our gazebo to help give us a bug-free backyard entertainment space.
Give access to water
A great way to attract bees to your yard is to give them a safe and clean water source. Place a couple of glass bowls or pie tins in your yard and fill with rocks or glass pebbles from the dollar store then ad water leaving the tops of the rocks visible. This will allow the bees and butterflies a safe space to stop and take a drink without the risk of drowning on a hot summer day.
Feed the bees
Feeding the bees is a great way to attract them to your garden. Early in the spring and in the fall when blooms are limited you can sit fresh-cut fruit in your grade to attract and feed the bees so they can survive. Last year we discovered this trick unintentionally. The toddler left a couple of slices of watermelon around the yard and the bees went wild in our yard. As an end result, we got an extra crop of veggies from our garden from a few straggling flowers we never expected to develop.
Provide the bees with shelter. While we often think of bees like honey bees, there are thousands of other bee species that do not live in large hives. Solitary bees need a place to live. A great way to do this is to take a small tree chunk of a fallen tree and drill holes of varying depth and width then lay it on its side. You can buy a premade chemical-free bug solitary bee house like one from BarefootSwan on Etsy.
Bee-friendly ground cover options
Clover used to be the standard in lawn across the country. People wanted a lawn with plenty of clover to help maintain a dark green and plushy yard even in times of drought and summer heat. Go back to this and add clover to your yard to provide the bees with flowers while covering lowering your yard maintenance. With a little work and time, you can eventually eliminate the need to mow your lawn more than once or twice a year if you desire.
Creeping thyme is a beautiful but expensive ornamental ground cover. Replacing a portion of your lawn with creeping thyme will leave you with beautiful flowers that reduce the need to mow a section of your lawn while providing food for the bees.