When you see a bee flying around your house, your first instinct may be to swat it. It is a pest, after all. Isn’t it? The truth of the matter is, however, that bees play a very important role in the circle of life and, more specifically, in your garden. In this article I will explain a little bit about the role bees play in your garden and give you some tips for attracting them and keeping them around.
What do Bees do?
Bees act as pollinators in the garden which means that they transfer pollen from one plant to another, allowing them to reproduce. If bees did not perform this role, your fruit trees wouldn’t produce fruit and your vegetable plants wouldn’t produce vegetables. But what exactly do bees do? Bees fly from one flower to another, drinking the nectar. As they do, they collect pollen from the flower on their legs and body which transfers to the next plant they visit. Without bees, you would have to pollinate the garden yourself – imagine that!
Attracting Bees to the Garden
Because bees play such an important role in pollinating your garden, you should consider taking steps to attract them. Attracting bees to your garden is as simple as being intentional about the type of plants you use in your garden, as well as their arrangement. Follow these tips to make your garden bee-friendly:
- Utilize a wide array of colors in your garden – unlike many creatures, bees are not color blind so they will be attracted to a bright and colorful garden
- Stock your garden with native plants – bees are going to be most attracted to the plants they are already familiar with so ask around at your local nursery or garden center for a list of native plants
- Arrange your flowers in large groups or clusters – this enables the bees to collect more nectar (and pollen) in a smaller area
- Plan your garden so that it blooms all summer long – intersperse your garden plants so that it is an even mix of flowers that bloom in the spring, summer and fall
- Take advantage of sunny areas in your yard – bees love the sun, so they will be most attracted to gardens that offer plenty of flowers in a sunny area
- Add flowers to your vegetable garden – while some vegetables produce flowers anyway, adding flowering plants to your vegetable garden will encourage bees to visit and pollinate your vegetables as well, for a higher yield
- Let some of your herbs and vegetables bolt – keep several of them to harvest for your own needs, but consider letting a few go so that they provide food for bees late into the season
- Consider following organic gardening practices – chemical-laden pesticides and herbicides can be dangerous for bees and other beneficial insects like butterflies
Bee Safety in the Garden
There is no reason to be afraid of bees in your garden – they are just as eager to avoid you as you are to avoid them. In fact, when bees do sting it is a defensive mechanism, not an offensive one. To peacefully co-exist with the bees in your garden, all you have to do is be observant and careful. Peak out at your garden a few times a day to see how many bees are hanging around. You may come to find that they tend to visit your garden at a certain time of day. If this is the case, doing your gardening either before or after that time may be all you need to avoid the bees. You should also take care to avoid disturbing a nest if you find one – bees are very protective of their nests so, if you destroy it or move it, they may be provoked to sting.
In reading this article, I hope I have educated you effectively about the importance of not only allowing bees in your garden, but actively attracting them. Before I became an avid gardener I was one of those who swatted at every bee I saw – I had several bad stings during my childhood and wasn’t eager to re-live them. Once I realized that bees do more good than bad, however, I came to accept them and to appreciate their role in keeping my garden thriving throughout the summer. Hopefully you will come to this same understanding and take steps to make your own garden bee-friendly! You definitely will not be sorry that you did. In fact, you will benefit from a brighter, more vibrant flower garden and a greater yield of your vegetables and herbs. The next time you see a bee, don’t reach for the fly swatter – just smile and be thankful that he is around.