How to Support Bees in Your Yard

a bee on a flower
What You'll Need
Honeysuckle and/or Clematis with a trellis
Members of the mint family - sage (salvia), lavender, oregano and mint
Daisies, dahlias, black-eyed Susans
Native plants
Blue, purple and yellow flowered plants
Apple, walnut or hazelnut trees
Capsicum, broccoli, strawberry plants
Bird bath or another source of water
Dead branches and tree limbs

Bees pollinate a whopping one-sixth of the flowering plant species across the globe, including 400 agricultural plants. These buzzing creatures are directly responsible for billions of dollars worth of crops each year, making them vital to the world's economy.

Unfortunately, bee populations are in dangerous decline, and they have been for many years now. Pesticides may be a large part of the problem, in combination with the increasingly manicured lawns of expanding suburban areas, which replace wild flowering plants with basic grass. These factors may have made bees more susceptible to colony collapse disorder, a devastating phenomenon that kills approximately 40% of all hives every year.

Albert Einstein once famously observed that if bees die out, humans will follow shortly thereafter. The genius physicist was right about almost everything else, so if we want to survive as a species, it's likely critical for us to support the health of the bees. Growing nectar-producing plants and creating supportive habitats can help save the bees, the flowering plants they pollinate, and quite possibly humanity.

Plant Bee Flowers Away From Activity

Focus your bee-friendly planting in places less likely to be used by animals or children. This will protect your family from stings, and encourage the bees to visit. The more room they have to work undisturbed, the more flowers the honey makers can pollinate.

Provide Water Sources

Just like birds, bees get thirsty during a hard day's work. Keep some shallow, accessible sources of water replenished throughout your garden. You'll be surprised how fast they drink it down on a hot day.

A water garden with lilies is another great way to support bees and other thirsty creatures.

Plant Flowers Close to Other Pollination Targets

Plant your bee magnets as close to your vegetable garden or fruit trees as possible to encourage the bees to pollinate your crops. Ideally, you should surround your target plants with alluring blossoms.

Choose Plants Bees Love to Visit

High Nectar - Avoid hybrids bred to produce extra petals (double-flowered varieties). The extra petals replace the anthers, thus producing little pollen.

Colorful - Bees seems to prefer blue, purple and yellow flowered plants, so try to include these colors in your bee garden.

Native - Locally native plants will thrive naturally, producing more nutritious pollen. Bees will recognize these plants as good food sources.

Diverse - Bees love variety, meaning that you should choose ten or more species of plants and flowers to make your garden a desirable home for bees.

Plant For All Seasons

Spring - Barberry, lavender, sage, and wisteria all produce delicious nectar in the spring (nectar is a sweet substance pollinating plants produce to lure insects like bees and butterflies to their blossoms). Other spring pollinators include California poppy, yarrow, bidens, blazing star, daisy, and marigolds.

tomatoes with flowers

Summer - Bees love basil, mint, oregano, thyme, and verbena for their nectar. Black-eyed Susan, goldenrod, gum plant, and lemon queen are good choices, too. Tomato and borage also produce pollen bees can move from plant to plant.

Fall - Yellow trumpet bush and Autumn sage are high-nectar plants. Cosmos, pumpkin, and squash will also attract and support pollinators like bees. Sunflowers will thrive all season long, just make sure to get varietals that produce pollen (not all do).

Plant For Blooms in Bee Season

For maximum impact, plant your bee garden so it’s flowering for bee season, which runs from March through October. Planting young flowers instead of seeds will accelerate your timetable.

Use Your Garden Barriers

If you have fences or walls, plant honeysuckle and clematis to climb along them. These bushes will bring waves of fragrance to your yard, and offer plenty of alluring feeding spots for pollinators.

honeysuckle flowers

Tend Your Garden Lightly

Manicuring your garden too heavily can make it unappealing for all sorts of life, from bees, to birds, to worms. We have a strange obsession with perfect, clean lines in our landscaping, but that approach is actually terrible for nature. Some bugs like to burrow into the dirt, for example, so limiting your use of mulch in certain spots can help them find a place to connect with the earth.

Many bugs, including bees, will make their homes in dead tree trunks and limbs, so when you do your pruning and clipping, consider leaving a few branches as an offering for wildlife. Birds love this kind of cover, too, and pick at critters who live underneath.

As much as possible, you should avoid pesticides in your garden. If you have to use them, find organic options.