Create Buzz by Building a Bee-Friendly Garden

Allie Ogletree
Written by Allie Ogletree
Updated February 22, 2022
A honeybee flying close to a flower
Photo: Sumiko Scott / Moment / Getty Images

Highlights

  • Just by themselves, honey bees pollinate 80 percent of plants that produce flowers.

  • Bee colonies are at risk of disease, habitat loss, and climate change.

  • You can protect bees by keeping your yard free from pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers.

  • It costs around $300 to start beekeeping.

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Lackluster flowerbeds have a way of making a yard look like anything but the perfect oasis for relaxing. While many gardeners spend their days trying to keep pests away, bees might be the missing piece to your dream garden. Here’s what you need to know about how honey bees can benefit your yard—and provide more fruits for your labor.  

What Are Pollinators?

Pollinators are animals that actively move pollen from one plant to another. Think of pollinators as little grazing animals who hop from flower to flower spreading pollen. Here’s a short overview of the pollination process:

  1. Pollen comes from the male reproductive part of the flower, called the stamen. 

  2. A pollinator lands on a flower to drink its nectar or nibble on the pollen, picking up bits of pollen from the stamen.

  3. When the pollinator moves to the next plant, it brings the pollen from the other plant with it. 

  4. Then, the pollen moves onto the female reproductive part of the new plant, called the stigma.

  5. Once the pollen reaches the stigma, the pollination process begins. This leads to seed production and new life.

While there’s a large focus on honeybees due to their decrease in numbers, it’s important to remember there are other pollinators that can benefit your garden, including bumblebees, ground bees, mason bees, butterflies, bats, wasps, birds, and moths.

What Are the Benefits of Bees?

We need bees, but what exactly do they do that makes them so important? The significance of bees include:

  • Bees pollinate plants. The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that honey bees contribute to the pollination of approximately 80 percent of plants that produce flowers. That’s over 130 different species of fruits and vegetables!

  • Bees produce honey. The world wouldn’t be as sweet without honey, which contains many vitamins, amino acids, and minerals like zinc, B6, magnesium, potassium, manganese. Honey also possesses antibacterial properties and is one of the oldest antibiotics discovered so far.

  • Bees produce beeswax. Beeswax is the second most-valued product made by bees in their beehives that was used for centuries in the trading market. Today, beeswax is more often used for candles, makeup, paint, and furniture polishes, though it is also used to bind pharmaceutical drugs.

Keeping Bees Safe in the Garden

There’s nothing sweet about it: Bee colonies are in danger. Colony collapse disorder, foulbrood, pesticides, drought, climate change, and the destruction of habitat all play a part in harming these fuzzy pollinating insects. 

While you might not be able to restore that new shopping strip down the road or change the weather, there are steps that you can take to keep bees safe in your yard:

  • Avoid spraying weed herbicides on your plants.

  • Ditch the synthetic fertilizer and opt for organic compost instead.

  • Keep the pesticides out of your yard.

  • Close garbage bin lids to keep bees from going for leftover sweets.

A Note on Removal: If you ultimately want to remove bees from your home (maybe you’re allergic or the hive is located somewhere problematic), don’t call an exterminator. Instead, have the hive removed and relocated. Bee relocation typically costs $75–$200.

How to Create a Bee-Friendly Yard

Close-up of a wattle tree’s yellow flowers
Photo: Simon McGill / Moment / Getty Images

There are also many actions you can take towards promoting the bee population. Check out these five tips on how to create a bee-safe garden.

1. Grow Native Plants

To attract bees and other pollinators to your lawn, plant a variety of flowers that bloom at different times of the year. For an easy swap, switch out non-native flowering plant species with their native counterparts, as native plants are more pollinator-friendly and thrive better locally. 

To help you with your landscape renovation, develop a landscaping plan that includes plantings that help support and encourage native pollinators, and don’t forget that there are some excellent trees to plant for pollinators, too.

If you’re not sure which plants are native and grow best in your region, visit a local garden shop or contact a landscaping pro near you to help you create a bee haven. Avoid larger chain stores, as they sometimes treat their plants with pesticides and other chemical treatments to preserve the life of the plants, which can have a negative impact on the health of honeybees and other pollinators.

2. Avoid the Pesticides, Chemical Fertilizers, and Herbicides

Speaking of chemical treatments, it’s worth repeating that you should refrain from using any of these products in your garden. Pesticides and herbicides don’t just kill unwanted plants and pests; they also kill bees, the microbes that promote plant life, and other animals. 

Chemical fertilizers (also called synthetic fertilizers) deplete your soil of essential nutrients, make soil conditions acidic, and seep into the groundwater—all of which affect the quality of the pollen that bees need to survive. 

3. Add a Water Element 

Bees need water just like we do, so providing them with a nearby water source will encourage them to linger around your garden, pollinating your plants. This is your chance to finally get that beautiful water feature you’ve always wanted for your garden. 

Just remember to keep the water levels low, avoid using fast-moving fountains and pumps, and add in some floating, flowering plants and other scenery to encourage bees to land for a sip.

4. Embrace the Weeds

What’s the difference between a weed and a flower, anyway? To bees, some weeds are just as attractive as other types of plants—if not more! A few bee-friendly weeds you want to keep in your garden include: 

  • Dandelions

  • Aster

  • Mustard

  • White clover

  • Red clover

  • Milkweed  

5. Build a Bee Box

If you’re feeling brave or have always had a soft spot for bees, then beekeeping is another option for creating a bee sanctuary on your lawn. Building a hive box for bees allows them to have a place to live while they bring all those previously mentioned perks to your landscaping.

How Much Does It Cost to Start Beekeeping?

Beekeeping equipment costs around $300 for the equipment and supplies, but you’ll need to maintain your beehive and keep up with its growth, so anticipate spending around $800 in the first year and around $150 per additional bee box as your hive expands.

Before you shop for a bee box, it’s a good idea to take a beekeeping class with a local beekeeping organization. This class will help you identify bee types in your yard, know what to look out for in the beehive as the bees grow, how many boxes to add and when, and how to keep safe from bee stings.

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