LEARN: 3. Tips for Success

How to create a bee friendly garden

3.1 Bee Friendly Garden

3.1 Bee Friendly Garden

Solitary bees needs are very different from social bees because of the way solitary bees live.

Most solitary bees have a short adult life, they are working on their own to raise their young, and they don’t fly far in search of pollen and nectar. Here are our expert gardening tips to help you successfully raise solitary hole-nesting bees.

Plenty of Flowers Near the Bee House

  • A solitary female bee can visit about 2,000 blooms a day.
  • Solitary bees only fly about 300ft (100m) from their bee house to their flower sources.

Ensure that your orchard and garden provides plenty of open blooms. Flowering shrubs and trees can feed bees with more flowers per square foot with their high density of flowers. Each bee needs about a square yard of flowers and native flowers are excellent natural feeders.

Spend a little time thinking about the plants that you want to be pollinated and provide bonus blooms that are open before and after your target plant. For instance, your apple trees bloom in the spring and blueberries or raspberries are also excellent spring-blooming flowers. It’s a good idea to add bonus flowers near your target plants.

Rethink weeds: dandelions begin blooming in the spring and clover is also an excellent bee favorite for spring and summer. Both are considered weeds but they are favorites for bees.

Pro Tip: Trees that help feed spring mason bees are big leaf maple, hazelnut (filbert), willows, alder, and cedar. You can also ask your local nursery for advice on native trees and shrubs that are known to feed bees.

Math time - a 300ft flying radius means solitary bees fly in an area of about 6 acres. Your bees may also visit your neighbor’s yard, too. Let your neighbor know about the gentle solitary bees you are raising and ask them to help you provide the bees with a healthy yard.

Chemical-free Yard

Due to their short flying range, solitary bees are picky and are much less likely to nest in a yard that smell of chemicals. For example, we’ve seen an herbicide deter mason bees in a yard that previously successfully raised mason bees. Improve your bee raising success by avoiding man-made lawn care chemicals like pesticide, herbicide, larvicide, fungicide, and chemical fertilizer.

In a natural yard, predator insects keep garden pest populations in balance. Aphids are eaten by ladybugs, birds, and beneficial solitary wasps like the aphid hunter (who prefers 4mm size nesting holes). Pesticides will also kill beneficial predator insects and without them the pest population can explode, making people want to reach for the chemical spray again.

Avoid plants treated with neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides. Neonic pesticides are systemic, meaning that they remain in the plant’s tissues and can be found in the pollen, nectar and leaves long after they are applied. Neonic pesticides have been shown to reduce a bee’s ability to learn how to feed from complex flowers and impair their memory and fertility.

If you must spray, target spray (at night) only the problem area and carefully follow the label’s directions. Using more than the recommended amount of chemicals does not make the chemical more effective and the overuse will seep into the groundwater. We recommend timing the application after bees are done nesting for the season.

Reducing and avoiding man-made lawn care chemicals are habits that your local ecosystem will appreciate. Everything that we apply to our yards continues into groundwater and our streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans.


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