The Leopold Center, Aldo Leopold Foundation
Photo: Trish Beckjord

The Leopold Center, Aldo Leopold Foundation Photo: Trish Beckjord

Bee Support

Bee and other pollinator experts typically recommend planting a diversity of species in order to provide sufficient food, shelter and nesting sites throughout the growing season for these important species. Here are a couple of other interesting tips from the Bee-Friendly Garden. See the references listed in this month’s main article.

  • Bee species emerge according to when their preferred plant pollen sources should be available
  • The larger size and “fur” on bumblebees help them better tolerate the cooler temperatures and wetter conditions of spring than smaller bees so you tend to see them out first. Also, they can detach their flight muscles from their wings and vibrate them to create body heat!
  • Including a variety of flowering plants in the garden will attract a variety of bee species as the season warms. This reference recommends having 10 or more different flowering species blooming in the same season, so try to include as many as you can. Fewer will still benefit bees.
  • Don’t forget that trees and shrubs also flower and bring pollinator benefit to the garden.
  • Bees practice a thing called “flower constancy” where they only forage on one species per foraging trip. While I don’t know how long a foraging trip is, the recommendation is to try to have “patches” of a single flower species that equal 3’ x 3’. This may sound daunting but you can repeat the same plant in different places in the garden or sometimes accomplish this by planting a single flowering shrub. The reference is not clear whether this requirement was determined for honeybees or is the same for small carpenter bees vs. bumblebees.
  • Including different native plant species will attract and support a larger number and more kinds of native bees. Strive for about 20 different native plant species or more in a medium to large garden. While this may seem like a lot, my small backyard – which is just over 1900 square feet is home to 8 tree/shrub species; 8 native grasses and sedges, and a bit over 40 wildflower species. This is not counting the bluestone patio, small back deck, and lawn!