Did you know there are over 4,400 species of native bees in North America? As the imported European honey bee continues to suffer from colony collapse disorder, these bees are becoming more important than ever to gardeners wanting their flowers, and especially fruits and vegetables, to be pollinated.
Native bees vary in size from very small to the giant bumble bee. All but the bumble bee are solitary bees. That means a queen does everything. She builds a nest, gathers the pollen and nectar her children need, lays the eggs, and then dies all within a fairly short span of time. There may be two or three generations of bees in a summer, then one generation overwinters in the nest before coming out the next spring to start over.
Since bees pollinate approximately 75 percent of the crops in this country and most flowering plants, it pays to have them around. You can attract them by providing food and shelter. Planting buffer strips of wildflowers and weeds around your yard and garden give the bees the nectar and pollen they need. Plant enough different types of wildflowers and weeds so that something is blooming from late spring all the way through late fall to provide food during the time bees are active.
Shelter is easily supplied in one of two ways: by building a bee block and putting it up on the side of your house or garden shed or by leaving areas that are bare soil for bees to nest in. Most solitary bees either nest in the ground or in holes they find that beetles, woodpeckers, or other creatures have left in trees, hollow stems, or buildings. Leave some areas on a south facing slope that are not mulched and are slightly damp for bees to nest in the ground on. Bird feeders or seeps provide moisture for the mud necessary for the building of the nests.
To build a bee block, all you need are two boards. One should be three inches thick and the other can be 3/4 inch thick.
First, lay out a grid of lines with columns one inch apart and rows 1 1/2 inches apart.
Second, drill different sized holes each place the lines cross. Since some bees are big and some are small, 3/8 inch and 5/8 inch size holes work well. The holes should be approximately 2 1/2 inches deep.
Finally, mount the smaller board on top to provide an overhang to shelter the holes from the rain.
Mount these bee blocks on a south facing wall near your garden to attract bees. This block will last one to two years before you will need to re-drill the holes to clean out the mud and old nests from them.
Native bees were here long before Europeans brought over the honey bee. Providing a little food, water, and shelter will help them thrive in your garden. That will help make sure your garden thrives as well.
Copyright WM Media. All rights reserved.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.