The honey bee population is in danger. As much as 70% of the bee population has died as a result of colony collapse disorder. Bees are under attack from a variety of sources, ranging from habitat loss to pesticides to climate change.
About one-third of our natural food supply relies on bees’ pollination. If these important pollinators disappear, so will our grapes and strawberries — along with many of our favorite foods.
Gardening for bees
Anyone with a garden — no matter the size — can help restore the bee population by creating a bee-friendly garden. Bees survive on flowers that supply them with food, nectar and pollen. Follow these steps to make your yard or garden a haven for bees.
Grow a wide variety of flowering plants to attract and support bees.
The more diversity in your garden, the more bees you will attract and support. There are hundreds of bee species in Minnesota, and bee species have varying tongue lengths. To accommodate more species, be sure to plant flowers of differing sizes.
Nourish bees with nectar-producing plants such as wild flowers. You can also plant flowering fruits and vegetables.
Flowers that can be integrated into most Minnesotan landscapes and that are particularly attractive to bees include:
- Calico aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum)
- Wild lupine (Lupinus perennis)
- Wild geranium (Geranium maculatum)
- Herbs like thyme and oregano (Origanum vulgare)
Attract bees with nectar-producing plants.
Wild flowers, including dandelions, provide food for the hives and native bee population as well.
Native plants are best.
They require less maintenance and have evolved with bees native to your region. As an added bonus, native plants rarely become invasive.
Bees need water, too.
Provide a fresh water source like a pond or fountain.
Plant flowers that will bloom at different times from spring to frost.
Bees need to eat until late September before winter arrives and they retreat to their hives. Growing flowers with overlapping bloom times is necessary to support pollinators. Goldenrods and sunflowers are essential for pollinators looking for high-energy food before a harsh Minnesota winter hits.
Home sweet home.
Native bees make their homes in sand and compost, not in hives. In your garden, provide a place for them to create a home.
Limit use of pesticides and herbicides.
Some are toxic to bees, and others kill the plants on which bees depend. If you use pesticides where bees are present, always read the label. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has developed new pesticide labels that help you understand how to apply the pesticides and help protect bees.
Be wary of using insecticides on your plants: Article: Evidence builds that insecticides are the main — or only — driver of bee die-offs (MinnPost)
- Pollinators and their habitat (Minn. Dept. of Agriculture)
- Bee Lab (University of Minnesota) - Research for the health of bee pollinators.
- Book: Pollinators of Native Plants (Heather Holm) - Local author with book, blog, and free downloadable posters.
- Native plant suppliers and landscapers in Minnesota (Minnesota DNR) - List of native plant suppliers and landscapers in Minnesota.
- Saving Minnesota’s Prairie Butterflies - Minnesota Zoo's Prairie Butterfly Heritage Project
- Beez Kneez education program - Experiential education about honey bees.