Bees haven’t had the greatest luck in recent years. With populations declining, there has been a lot of publicity and attention paid to figuring out how to save the bees—and with good reason. We need them, and so do our plants. As pollinators, they provide an invaluable service, and as gardeners, it is our duty to pay them right back! Here are a few tips and tricks to follow if you would like to know how to help the bees in your own backyard.
1. Go Native
If you want to learn how to help the bees, one of the best places to start is looking toward what they are naturally drawn to. Not all plants are created equal in the eye of the bee, but native plants are a pretty safe bet. Pollinator-friendly plants like coneflower, goldenrod, black lace elderberry, and of course, bee balm, are sure to be a hit among your area bee populations.
2. Keep Your Garden Blooming All Season Long
The United States has somewhere close to 4,000 different species of native bees, and at least 300 of them reside here in Iowa. Different species are around at different times of the year, so it only makes sense to have flowering plants available throughout the growing season. Lavender and agastache, for example, flower in the summertime, while sedums will bloom in the fall. Many spring-flowering shrubs like forsythia are also much-loved by the bees!
3. Create a Hydration Station
In learning how to help the bees in the garden, keep three things in mind. Just like other species, they need food (pollen from all those lovely native plants), shelter, and water to survive. Adding a water feature like a birdbath to your yard will help them (and other critters such as birds and butterflies) hydrate whenever they need.
4. Build a Bee Hotel
It would be easy to assume that all bees live in beehives, but this is simply not the case. Solitary bee species need somewhere to go when the elements start to get the best of them. A bee hotel, condo, home, or nest in your yard is another wonderful way to help. These are easy to build (just look up “DIY bee hotel” on Google or YouTube), or, if you’re not the do-it-yourself kind, you can also buy them in-store. Another easy way to provide some shelter in your yard is to drill holes in a dead tree trunk or log. They lay their eggs in places like this, so in addition to providing that particular bee some protection, you’ll also help grow the population over the long-term.
5. Avoid Pesticides Whenever Possible
Pesticides get rid of unwanted pests, while insecticides are used to get rid of unwanted insects. Of course, bees are insects and thus can be very negatively impacted by improper use of pesticides and insecticides. If you absolutely need to use them, we recommend doing so in a very minimal, controlled way. Avoid using pesticides on open blooms wherever possible, and apply them in the evening when they are less likely to be buzzing around.
We are so glad you stopped by to learn a few tips and tricks on how to help the bees in Bettendorf. If you need help finding pollinator-friendly plants or have any more questions about how to plant a pollinator garden, stop by the garden center! We’d be happy to help.