The bee population is in danger. As much as 70% of bees have died, with causes 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 would many of our favorite foods, including berries and other fruits, and lots of vegetables, grains, and nuts.
Gardening for bees
You can help restore the bee population by making a bee-friendly garden, no matter the size! 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 with a variety of plant preferences.
Nourish bees with nectar-producing plants such as wild flowers and flowering fruits and vegetables
Bee-friendly plants can be integrated into most Minnesota landscapes. Plants 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)
- Even dandelions provide food for hive and native bee populations. When dandelions are blooming, try to hold off on mowing your lawn.
Native plants are best
They require less maintenance and have evolved with bees native to our region.
Bees need water, too
Provide a fresh water source like a pond or fountain. Or make a bee waterer with a shallow dish and some marbles.
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 helps bees throughout the season. Goldenrods and sunflowers are essential for pollinators looking for high-energy food before the harsh Minnesota winter.
Home sweet home
Provide undisturbed areas where native bees can make their own nests, such as standing, dead stems, downed logs, brush piles, and most importantly, undisturbed ground (both bare and covered with thatch). Learn more at the University of Minnesota's Bee Lab.
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. Learn more about protecting bees from pesticides.
- Best management practices for pollinators and their habitat (MN Dept. of Agriculture)
- Native plant suppliers, landscapers, and restoration consultants for Minnesota (MN Dept. of Natural Resources)
- Saving prairie butterflies (Minnesota Zoo)