Gardening for Honey Bees

June 1, 2018

If the Dad in your life loves to spend time outdoors, share these tips with him on how to make his lawn, garden, or landscape beneficial to bees.

Father's Day Gardening Guide

Focus on Bee-Friendly Plants

Plant flowers of differing shape, size and color, but put large swaths of the same flowers together in order to increase a bee’s foraging efficiency.

Good choices for bee-friendly perennials:

  • Aster
  • Hyssop
  • Milkweed
  • Purple coneflower

Good choices for bee-friendly annuals:

  • Cosmos
  • Marigold
  • Sunflower
  • Zinnia

Good choices for bee-friendly herbs:

  • Basil
  • Borage
  • Catmint
  • Lavender
  • Oregano

Good choices for bee-friendly shrubs:

  • Ninebark
  • Pussy willow
  • Sumac
  • Viburnum

Trees such as the tulip poplar, redbud, crabapple, linden and serviceberry can be an important source of pollen and nectar for bees because they often flower early and have large quantity of both. Maple trees are also a good choice to plant as honey bees can drink their sugary sap from the bark after woodpeckers release it.

Select Native and Old-fashioned Plants

Whenever possible, select native plants as they are ideal for feeding bees and optimized to grow in your region. For suggestions visit the websites of regional botanic gardens and plant nurseries for more info on bee-friendly plants. Native plants also have the added advantage of attracting other pollinators such as butterflies and other insects, hummingbirds and bats. And though many may consider these plants weeds, dandelions, milkweed, goldenrod and clover are excellent sources of nectar and pollen.

Stick to simpler flowers like daisies and marigolds and be judicious about planting the showy, double-headed flowers like double impatiens, which make very little nectar and are harder for bees to pollinate. Additionally, avoid highly hybridized plants that have been engineered not to seed and don’t produce very little pollen for bees.

Plan for Blooms in the Spring, Summer & Fall

By planting for the entire growing season, bees will have access to nectar and pollen in times they need it the most: right after they emerge from their winter isolation in the early spring and in the fall when they are securing stores to last them through the winter.

Spring recommendations:

  • Crocus
  • Hyacinth
  • Borage
  • Calendula
  • Wild lilac

Summer recommendations:

  • Bee balm
  • Cosmos
  • Echinacea
  • Snapdragons
  • Foxglove
  • Hosta

Fall recommendations:

  • Zinnias
  • Sedum
  • Asters
  • Witch hazel
  • Goldenrod

Don’t Forget the Water

Offer bees and other creatures a clean and regularly replenished water source, especially during summer’s heat. A water feature such as a stream or pond, shallow bowl or birdbath can provide sufficient water. Place a few stones or floating sticks in stationary water so that bees and other insects can land on them to drink without risk of drowning.

Develop a Healthier Garden

Use mulch and top-dress your soil with compost or natural fertilizer to encourage strong, vigorous plants that resist insect damage. Avoid the use of herbicides and pesticides and embrace natural means of pest control. Ladybugs, spiders and praying mantises can help to keep pest populations in check. Pull out any weak plants and dispose of them away from the garden area as they might attract predators. Avoid wet foliage by watering early in the day to minimize insect and fungal infections.

Not only will these tips provide a haven and food for honey bees, they will help make your Dad’s garden a beautiful space for all to enjoy.

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