By Patrice Comninel
Honeybees have been disappearing around the world. Scientists, calling it Colony Collapse Disorder, are not certain exactly why this is happening. Honeybees are the single most important factor in pollinating our plants. The loss of our honeybees would mean the failure of a substantial number of crops. It would be a disaster. The “die off” of so many honeybees is causing many people to think about growing gardens that feed and support these bees. It is easier than one might realize, and the result not only increases the chances of survival for a vital insect species, but increases the beauty and diversity of American yards and gardens. Don’t worry about being stung unless you have an allergy. A foraging bee is too focused on finding nectar to stop and sting someone. They only sting when they feel they are being attacked.
Bees are attracted to certain flowers and they prefer gardens that contain ten or more of these varieties. Start with dandelions and clover in the spring, and cut them before they seed. Bees love these flowering weeds, and they’re free! They also love black-eyed susans and rhododendrons. Flowers that attract bees, as well as butterflies and other garden creatures, come in a variety of colors and shapes. Two toned flowers such as calliopsis (yellow and orange) are among the best attractors of bees. Others include: cosmos, coneflowers, goldenrod, sunflowers, goldmarie, dusty miller, lavender, rosemary, scented geranium and many more. These varieties should be grouped in areas of 1 ½ square yards or larger. The garden should be less manicured and a little more natural!
Pesticides should definitely not be used as they can kill bees as well as other insects. Even small amounts can interfere with navigational abilities and if brought back to the hive, can enter the honey, affecting the development of the larvae and, ultimately, the hive.
Take the opportunity to plant a variety of flowers that will come into bloom from spring until autumn. Your neighborhood bees will have nectar and pollen to eat throughout most of the year. During winter they cluster together to keep warm and live on the honey collected during the warmer seasons. An added benefit of plantings that bloom throughout the seasons will be a colorful, changing garden that blooms from the first blossoms of spring until the turning leaves and cold breezes of fall. Witch Hazel is a fragrant winter blooming plant that grows in zones 3-9 [Here in Andes we are in Zones 3, 4 and 5, depending on altitude.] and will extend your flowering garden into late fall and winter, depending on the zone. Bees love it.
To get started, choose native plants that attract bees and other wildlife, such as butterflies and birds. To save money, grow them from seeds in small containers like egg cartons. Move them outdoors after the last frost. Keep in mind that a bee garden protects bees from the elements, such as rain and wind. Therefore natural windscreens (tall flowers, shrubs and trees) are a plus. Remember, you can use containers, raised beds, or ground beds for your flowers. Don’t forget to leave some water in a bird bath or other container if you live in a dry region. Bees get thirsty, too.~