Making A Happy Home For Native Bees

Friday I talked about how little I could find about gardening for native bees. There are some resources for making a yard attractive for them however.

The first thing, of course, is to avoid the use of pesticides–and remember that the word “pesticide” includes not only insecticide but fungicide and weed killers too. All of these act on the nervous system of insects (as well as possibly on higher life forms–like us!) . It’s been well-established that butterflies are highly susceptible to pesticides. Why do we think that these other insects are not?

Since many of these bees are ground dwelling–and here again, I don’t want you all to confuse them with hornets that nest in the ground. Every year we have bumble bees nest in the same spot in the ground. We mow over the hole without any problem. I’ve even had a feeble little aged dog stumble and put a foot into the hole without any issue whatsoever.  These are not hornets. Ground nesting bees are not a threat.

But that means that you’ll want to be careful about your soil (as you should be anyway, of course). Carefully consider what sorts of soil treatments you use. Needless to say, we do not use the “chemical” 4 step plans.

Mason bees will nest bore into wood and nest there. These are NOT carpenter bees–they do not technically damage the wood, although by boring in they are making holes.

You can buy or make mason bee nesting boxes for these bees to call home. They should be on a south or east facing tree and should be protected from the rain somehow.

Most likely you have seen–in catalogs or garden centers–boxes or containers filled with round pencil shaped hollow tubes. That is a mason bee nest box. You certainly don’t need to buy anything for your bees–I don’t–and I have lots of them anyway.

It’s far more important to keep them happy by creating happy conditions for them. On Friday I’ll talk about colors on the “bee spectrum” and how to plant.

3 thoughts on “Making A Happy Home For Native Bees

  1. The Chatsworth Lady May 18, 2015 / 2:50 pm

    I learned from experience in former gardens that certain plants are major “bee magnets” but never thought of it in terms of color. One of the buzz-iest shrubs was Clethra alnifolia (summersweet) which has white flowers. Thanks for explaining about ground nesting bees — I always assumed anything ground-dwelling was a wasp or hornet!

  2. gardendaze May 18, 2015 / 2:56 pm

    Thanks for mentioning Clethra. I too have it in my garden (if you can believe it, it was eaten straight to the ground by the deer over this past difficult winter but thankfully it is rebounding nicely!) It’s a fabulous shrub for the bees and it’s a native to boot–what’s not to like?

    In early spring–back when we had such a thing–I’ve actually accidentally dug up some of these gentle ground nesters. They just sort of look at me reproachfully and move on! Now, if I see what is clearly a nest in the ground, I’m careful to mark it so that I cultivate around it instead of through it!

    But this is what I mean about how really gentle these guys are. We need to spread the word so that others are not afraid of bees.


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