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Despite my earlier protestations, and with much appreciated assistance, I not only planted what turned out to be an overfilled garden, I har...

July 10, 2015

Buzz worthy benefits to bee hospitality

I could probably talk endlessly about not using and avoiding pesticides and insecticides; especially those containing Neonicotinoids. I won't do that today because there are so many documentaries, cartoons, newspaper articles, nightly news stories, and so on and such that speak volumes about why bee populations are on the decline and the ramifications for our SHARED planet.
I am a fixer by nature and I want to focus on providing my top three preservationist tips for abundant-bee happiness. So take this as my tiny but comprehensive and super easy to do, Get Bees To My Backyard-Patio- Community Garden plan. Keep in mind that there are approximately 400 native bee species in Minnesota. I cannot speak for 400 species but I've witnessed 4 varying types in my garden space. These include Bumblebees, Honeybees, Carpenter bees, and tiny but busy Stingless Bees (dill flowers are their JAM). I have at least two neighbors in a quarter mile radius keeping bees so honey bees come and go from their respective "residence" to collect pollen and nectar at will. I just provide the blooms and a few other doodads then they do the heavy lifting (they can literally lift their own weight in pollen and nectar). I sometimes wish I could pinpoint their owners so I could partake in a bit-o-honey directly, But alas I pretend that all of the Beez Kneez's buzzy critters are borrowing my blooms so I grab a jar of their very much local sticky stuff when ever there is need. Okay, now I'm starting to think I am getting low I may need to dash out for a quart or two after posting this. :D 

But alas, onto my list:

1). Research what Bees 🐝 like to eat. Not just the European immigrant bee brought over umpteen years ago. Visit your local library and/or extension service for information on native plants and herbs. The buzzy guests are enjoying Joe Pye Weed, Echinacea, milkweed, aforementioned dill, Spirea, Black Eyed Susan, Mint, Dandelion, Sun Flower, Clover, turnip, pea, and the star of our garden Borage.
Aesthetics are important, but don't overlook buzzwords about how a plant grows. Seriously, when considering plant look for any little quirks beyond full sun or partial shade. Be mindful of things like (self seeds, slightly aggressive, needs containment). This will help you keep peace with your neighbors and your other plants, trust me! *cough cough* [freedom mint goeth everywhere]

2). Remember every thing and every body needs water. Please make water accessible to the little buggers. I place a couple bird baths out every year but I also grow a plant called a Cup plant. How convenient right? :) This plant captures water in between its long and wide leaves that pollinators use for a quick sip; plus it has abundant but tiny sunflowery blooms. Please Note, If you don't have room for a huge plant then the Cup plant is not for you. In this event just put a saucer outside with fresh water and colorful marbles this is more than enough for them if you're consistent. Plus it looks nice and you won't see dirt in the bottom. I likewise add a stone or three to my bird baths because bees aren't known to be the best swimmers.

3). A hidey hole/ a nap box/ Una Casa... What ever buzzword you'd like to use for Bee Live Here! is up to you. Bees, like us, need a place to lay it all down. From big old Bumbles, to Teeny tiny stingless bees, adequate housing is necessary. So besides stacking wood for our patio bon fires I keep a few logs or more for solitary bees that may want to aggregate their nesting cells. [basically skooching in next to their girlfriends for discounted daycare]
Having a curious and busy kid comes in handy for this project. I give him a drill, tiny drill bits, and a log.... *instant mason bee home*
My little helper and I have also utilized old hollow sun flower stalks stuffed into empty coffee tins. The trick here was putting the tin somewhere where it's protected from wind and water. We had fun, the bees got a home, the Apple tree was pollinated and so was the squash so everyone was happy.

Keep in mind that the above tips are just a starting point. As I said before you have to figure out what works best for you aesthetically. Additionally you want to figure out how much you want/need to invest financially which doesn't take much.  Also how much time you can invest is important. Bees are discriminate and wary. They'll take their time to find food viable sources for food and shelter. Be consistent and don't switch things up on them if you can help it.  Once they find you be kind and patient the rewards are great. Especially if you have little ones at home they are interested in what's buzzing around them so having bees is a way for them to learn about how things grow in why we all need pollinators. When I first started this path children's books helped me immensely. One of my favorites is Roots Shoots Buckets and Boots by Sharon Lovejoy. Her tips are wonderful for keeping kids and yourself entertained and busy as bees all summer long.

Happy Bee Homing Folks!!