Gardening for the Love of Bees
Habitat loss and fragmentation are the primary factors causing the decline in our native bee populations. Where there were once natural landscapes, meadows and wild flowers, there are now expanded developments with widened highways, buildings and sprawl. Many of these changes take place at a rapid pace, often depleting acres of land within a short season which means that nature is not able to adapt.
Ontario Bumble bees
Native bees have a life cycle that depends on the right conditions in the local environment and the bumble bee, with the longest flight time through the year are active from early spring to late fall. The queen emerges from hibernation in early spring, searching for food when most plants may still be covered in snow. Their workers collect pollen well into fall to prepare for winter. Bumble bees are similar to honey bees in that they are a social bee that lives in a colony but they differ in that they travel much shorter distances in search of food. Typically a bumble bee will forage within a 1 km radius. Other native bees and specialist pollinators may only travel a few hundred metres from their nest. If your see bees in your garden its a fairly good indicator that they are nesting nearby.
What we can do to help bees:
On an individual level, we can make a difference by how we garden. We can increase the amount of wildflowers and native plants we have on our property. Floral food provides essential nutrients to help our local bees thrive. When we add native plants to our gardens we are also helping to restore the ecosystem. For further details on bee nesting requirements, see our section on habit.
1. Plant a Shrub
The small but plentiful blossoms of most shrubs provide a bountiful feast in early spring that bees will appreciate. Bring a shrub into your garden to build the beginning of a food hub for bees.
2. Share your lawn
Watch your lawn come to life by permitting wildflowers into the mix. Perhaps mow a low path and allow the remaining lawn to grow a little longer. Native plants like self-heal, narrow leaf plantain and yarrow are loved by bees all summer-long. They allow you a low-cost way of experimentation before transitioning to a more intentional meadow planting or matrix lawn.
3. Think in 3's
Continuous floral blooms through the season are essential when gardening for bees. The number '3' is a good reminder! Plant in clusters with a minimum grouping of at least three plants. Have at least three species of flowers blooming at any given time. Select plants that provide blooms for all three seasons; spring, summer and fall.