Thursday, 26 October 2017

How To Be Bee-Friendly In Your Landscape Design

Bees are vital our local ecosystems. They pollinate the plants and are an important part of the food chain. But, many people take drastic measures to discourage bees and other pollinators from frequenting their flora, which is potentially harmful for the very lawns they wish to protect.
Here, we offer advice on which plants to avoid and which to consider when you want to attract beautiful buzzing bees.

Broadleaf evergreen shrubs

There are a number of low-lying broadleaf evergreen shrubs that won’t attract bees or their more aggressive cousins, wasps. Many are shade tolerant so these types of greenery make a great addition to your landscape but must be balanced with flowering shrubs, such as blueberry bushes, in order to offer a hospitable foraging zone for bees, butterflies, and other flying pollinators.

Evergreens are plants that, as their name suggests, remain green year-round. These trees and shrubs are not pollinated by bees but by the wind. They are common in virtually all regions and make excellent hedgers if you want a more private backyard. PennLive reports that while dense evergreens don’t provide food for bees, they do offer shelter, especially when paired with tall trees and ornamental grasses.

Flowering plants

Bees need flowering blooms to collect nectar and pollen for their hive and to pollinate other plants. There are a few varieties that, despite their beauty and inviting fragrance, aren’t particularly bee-friendly. In a 2007 article, LiveScience reported that bees tend to favor violet and blue hues. Irises and other tall, easily accessible flowers may be most attractive, especially in the spring. Red flowers are not as interesting for most bees, since their vision doesn’t pick up red as we do. Instead of the bright and brilliant color we see when we look at a bed full of red flowers, bees simply see a monotone sea of grey.

Flowers with long-throated blooms, like the foxglove, are also not especially conducive to an active bee population. A fall favorite in most of the country, marigolds are also considered a no-fly zone for bees. Marigolds have a very low pollen count and, due to their double corolla design, and are not attractive to bees and wasps. For more information on flowering plants to avoid when planning a bee-attracting garden, check out this list provided by Go Garden Guides. 

Accent plants and herbs

While we need the bees in our yards, it’s not a bad idea to discourage them from frequenting areas where people gather. Decks, patios, and porches can be designed as off-limits areas by including a few strong smelling herbs and accent plants that don’t act as an open invitation for bees and other perceived pests. Debug Pest Control recommends planters filled with spearmint and thyme. These herbs are pleasingly fragrant to humans but not pollinators. In larger areas, eucalyptus trees and bushes can work as a deterrent.

Living in harmony

It isn’t difficult to live side-by-side with bees. These beneficial flyers are usually non-aggressive and will take the path of least resistance while working the yard. Teach children, who are prone to bee stings in the summer, to stay away from densely flowered areas and to watch out for places bees like to hide, such as brush piles and dead trees. Before beginning any yard work, take a quick walk around your property to identify any areas where bees might be nesting or actively foraging. Don’t wear brightly-colored clothing outdoors, always wear protective footwear, and eliminate man-made attractants (food, beverages, and trash).

Remember, we need the bees and the bees need us to see their value. By balancing your landscape and respecting bees’ natural habits and habitats, we can encourage a healthy bee population and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Article Kindly written for Grantham Beekeepers by;
Christy Erickson

Sunday, 1 October 2017

4 Ways to Transform Your Fall Garden Into a Haven for Bees

There’s a buzz these days around protecting bees. Their populations have been in decline in recent years, which is a serious problem because we rely on them for our food supply. Thankfully, there’s quite a bit we can all do to protect bee populations year-round. We tend to think of colorful blossoms throughout summer as attracting butterflies and other pollinators, but there’s no need to leave our pollinator gardens behind when fall comes. With trees, herbs, and late blooming plants, we can have beautiful pollinator gardens well into fall.

Bee populations have taken a hit in recent years, and reversing this trend is critical to maintaining food supply. The XercesSociety, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting bees, reports that bees are “necessary for the reproduction of over 85% of the world’s flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world’s crop species.” Two of the primary reasons for the decrease of the bee population are pesticide use and loss of habitats. The good news is we can easily create home gardens that tackle both of these problems.

Avoid pesticides - Avoiding all pesticide use is ideal so opt for natural pest deterrents instead, if at all possible. If you do use pesticides, look for the least toxic option. The national Forest Service recommends reading labels carefully because some pesticides are more harmful to bees than others. You can also minimize the impact to pollinators by only spraying at night when pollinators are not active.

Plant in clusters - As you add late blooming plants, group them in clusters rather than using individual plants so that pollinators are able to find them more easily. Keep these groupings close together in one part of your yard so that pollinators have a central spot that’s ideal for them. Planting these groupings close together also provides shelter for pollinators and camouflage to protect them from predators.

Choose plants wisely - In order to attract pollinators, plant a variety of colours and also choose flowers that smell nice. If you’re attracted to the smell, bees will be too. Even if you live in an urban area, you can still provide a fall bee habitat by planting a container garden with herbs, perennials, and late season annuals. If you have more space, fall is a great time to plant trees and shrubs. These give you beautiful leaves in the fall, and you can look forward to blossoms in early spring before most other flowers are in bloom. Many of these plants look good year-round, such as hydrangeas, Pagoda dogwood, and ninebarks. When choosing your fall plants, make sure to avoid hybrid flowers because these breeds may have eliminated the pollen and nectar that bees need.

Provide a home for bees - You can help honeybees flourish as the weather gets cooler by creating a welcoming environment for them in your garden. Some bee species nest underground, while others use openings in natural material like tree limbs. For bees that nest underground, the LA Times suggests leaving some patches of ground that are undisturbed and without mulch to give bees a spot to nest. As you transition your garden for fall, you can help pollinators by leaving some sticks and fallen branches instead of clearing them all away. You can add a beautiful rustic addition to your fall garden by building an insect house where bees can lay eggs. Some bees need water and may not get as much as they need from nectar during the fall. A bird bath placed close to your plants provides a source of water that helps bees throughout fall, and even into winter in warmer climates, but remember to put a few stones in the bottom so the bees don't drown!!

With the increasing loss of natural habitats for bees, home gardens are becoming essential to their survival. Make your garden as bee-friendly as possible well into fall by providing late blooming plants, trees, and the other eco habitats they need to survive. You get much more enjoyment from your garden by adding plants that look great year round, and pollinators will thrive thanks to your efforts.

Article written by Christy Erickson.