“Wait, you want me to ATTRACT bees?“
The first time I heard that people actually want bees in their backyard, I couldn’t believe it!
It seemed like I was asking to get stung, or worse, one of my kids would get hurt and never want to go outside again!
But, I stopped panicking and started listening. I learned how honeybees and native pollinators are declining, and home gardeners can help these insects make a comeback. Plus, the bees do us a massive favor by pollinating our plants!
Here are 7 Proven Ways to Attract Bees to Your Yard:
#1. Plant Flowers that Attract Bees
As you might expect, one of the BEST ways to attract bees is to plant many different types of flowers. That’s because bees rely on the nectar AND pollen found inside flowers for food!
Perennial flowers are a great option to attract bees because they grow back year after year. In addition, they are typically easy to plant and require very little attention to flourish.
Annual plants, on the other hand, must be regrown from seed each summer. The biggest benefit with annuals is they typically produce more flowers than perennials during the growing season.
I prefer perennial flowers because there isn’t much seasonal maintenance. However, this is a personal preference. If you prefer annuals, you can still have a wonderful pollinator garden! Below are just a few examples of some of the most popular flowers:
- Perennials: aster, bee balm, cosmos, and milkweed
- Annuals: sunflowers, zinnias, and snapdragons
- Bees also visit berry plants, fruit trees, herbs, and vegetables!
Another important thing to consider is the COLOR of your flowers. Bee-lieve it or not, pollinators prefer blue, purple, and yellow flowers over other colors. So, make sure you include plenty of flowers in these colors!
Remember to visit your local nursery for help finding flowers that attract bees!
Lastly, make sure to plant flowers that are NATIVE to North America. They provide excellent energy sources for bees but are also preferred by hummingbirds, butterflies, spiders, etc.
#2. Pay Attention to Bloom Times
If you’re looking to attract bees to your yard, you want to make sure they spend the entire season there! The best way to do this is to provide them with food from spring to fall.
As you design your flower garden, make sure to select flowers that have different bloom times. For example, if all of your flowers bloom in July, you may have lots of bees during this month, but then they will leave to find other food sources!
The following illustration provides just one example of how your bee flower garden may look:
Once you have a good idea of when your preferred flowers will bloom, it’s easy and fun to put the bloom time puzzle together. The bees will thank you!
#3. Take Great Care of Your Plants
Once you’ve picked your plants, you have the vital job of keeping them healthy!
Taking care of your plants will encourage flowers to bloom, giving bees the chance to eat and pollinate. Watering, fertilizing, weeding, and pruning are all critical steps to keeping your garden healthy and beautiful. If you don’t take care of your plants, there may be no nectar and pollen available for bees.
You’ll notice that most flowers that attract bees do best in full sun. This is important to remember as you pick a location for your bee garden. Just like the flowers they depend on, bees prefer full sun as well. Choose a spot that gets plenty of sunshine to make the most of your bee garden!
If you have questions about the care of specific plants or need help with gardening tips, your local nursery is a valuable resource!
#4. Limit or Eliminate Pesticides
If you want to attract bees, one of the WORST things you can do is have a yard filled with pesticides. These poisons kill insects without discriminating. Unfortunately, this type of yard is common in most neighborhoods.
And if you use pesticides, not only will you miss out on all the pollinators you could be attracting, but a lot of pesticides are dangerous to humans, pets, and other wildlife!
If you insist on using chemicals for pest control, make sure they are not harmful to bees. For example, avoid using pesticides that specifically target bees or apply them at dawn or dusk when bees aren’t active.
In addition, neem oil, vinegar, and Epson salts are natural pesticide alternatives that you can use safely without damaging bee populations.
#5. Consider Putting Up a Bee House
When I first heard the term “bee house” and saw one for sale, I imagined a hive of bees swarming all over the small tubes and holes.
Luckily, this image could not be further from the truth.
Bee houses are designed to attract solitary bees, like Mason Bees!
Don’t worry; I didn’t know what a Mason Bee was or anything about them either. But these insects are incredible little creatures that you want in your backyard!
Some things that make Mason Bees unique:
- Mason Bees live a solitary life. Each female makes her own nest, with no worker bees present. Talk about an independent woman!
- A female Mason Bee constructs her nest in naturally occurring cavities, such as woodpecker holes, hollow stems, or any other gap they can find. These bees cannot excavate their own holes, so they don’t pose a danger to wooden structures.
Check out this 5-minute mini-documentary about Mason Bees!
You can learn more information about bee houses, including how to make your own, in this article:
#6. Start Your Own Beehive
If you’re interested in creating a honey bee hive, watch this video that shows how to set up a beehive! You can also check out honeybee hive starter kits on amazon.
#7. Create a Mud Source
As I mentioned above, Mason Bees use mud to build their nests. So naturally, if you have a mud source near your garden, these bees are much more likely to stick around!
I’m lucky because I have a lake on my property that provides plenty of muddy soil. But if you don’t have a pond or stream, you can still create a mud source easily! It’s as simple as digging a hole and adding water to your soil until it’s the consistency of modeling clay.
Mason bees prefer clay-rich soil for nesting. You can buy a specially designed mud mix here or buy clay-rich soil at your local garden center if you have sandy soil. Then, check your mud every few days to see if it’s getting dry, and add water as needed. You should have Mason bees lining up to use your mud in their nests in no time at all!
#8. Buy some bees!
You might be thinking, can I really buy bees for my garden?
YES, YOU CAN!
If you’re impatient (like me), and are excited to start hosting bees in your yard today, then you can buy bees to fit your interest or experience level!
Most home gardeners will want to start with just buying 20 bees and see how it goes. Crown Bees, a company that started to help and promote native bees, such as Mason and Leafcutter, sells and ships mason bee cocoons.
You can read more about releasing their cocoons on the Crown Bees website:
If you’re interested in starting a honey bee colony, you can buy 3 lbs (a little over a kilogram) of bees to get started. While honey bees are more time-consuming, you get the sweet benefit of producing your own local honey! =)
How do you attract bees to your yard?
Let us know in the comments!