How to Garden for Bees
Winter is a great time to plan for the addition of more pollinator plants to your landscape this spring or to grow an entire pollinator garden this spring.
Pssst…You know you don’t have to be a beekeeper to help support honey bees, right?
A variety of high-quality, nectar plants that bloom in your yard throughout the year can attract an abundance of bees and other pollinators like butterflies and moths. Winter is a great time to plan for the addition of more pollinator plants to your landscape this spring or to grow an entire pollinator garden this spring.
These elements are important if you want to bring more bees to your yard:
Flower color: Honey bees are most attracted to white, blue, and violet flowers. They don’t usually visit red flowers because of their color perception. Honey bees like to make the most of their foraging trips by visiting similar looking flowers planted in the same area. Bumble bees also behave this way, but not to the same extent.
Flower shape: The length of a bee’s tongue determines which blooms it feeds on. Honey bees have medium-length tongues and can feed on a wide range of bloom shapes. Bumble bees have long tongues and reach the nectar in long, tubular shaped flowers. Bees with short tongues rely on plants with easy-to-reach nectar, like sunflowers and daisies.
Plant in large groupings: Because of the way honey bees and other social bees scout for food, it is hard for them to feed on several different plants within a day. It is helpful if you plant the same species of plant in large drifts or in smaller groupings no more than a few yards apart.
Plant for successive blooming: Make sure you have plants that will bloom throughout the year. Honey bees forage most heavily during brood rearing, which lasts from February to late October in Mississippi.
Provide water: Honey bees need a source of pure water for many of their functions, including dissolving crystallized honey, diluting food for their larvae, cooling the hive and hydrating themselves. Fountains or drip hoses are best because they feature running water. Use river rocks or other items in or near the water device, so the bees have a dry place to alight and drink.
Native pollinator housing: You can make housing for bees and wasps out of scrap and natural materials, including wooden blocks with holes drilled in them and mud-packed bricks. Placement is important. They need to face south or southeast, be at least 3 feet off the ground, and have a roof that overhangs the openings. For more about how to make bee housing, visit the Pollinator Partnership website.
Native plants: Native plants are important for supporting native bees, butterflies, and moths. Native insects, including caterpillars, growing on those plants are important for supporting native wildlife like songbirds. By planting native, flowering plants you’re supporting native pollinators and birds—and the honey bee benefits, too.
Find more about how to make your landscape a magnet for bees, read Extension Publication 2976, “Gardening for Beneficial Bees in Mississippi.”
If you are interested in attracting other pollinator species, including butterflies and hummingbirds, Extension Publication 2402,” Establishing a Backyard Wildlife Habitat,” will guide you in creating a welcoming landscape.
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