Attracting Native Bees
Find out why native bees are so important
Native bees pollinate the majority of our food crops. Without them, there would not be enough food to feed the world. Native bees have been in big decline over the past few years due to pesticide use and lack of habitat. We would be wise to try and encourage their growth in our own backyard gardens.
There are over 4,000 native species of bees to the United States including bumble bees, leaf cutter bees, mining bees, mason bees, sweat bees, and many others. Some bees prefer to pollinate strawberries, while other bees are better at pollinating tomatoes, squash or cucumbers. Fruit and vegetables tend to be larger when pollinated by native bees as opposed to being pollinated by the wind. We all benefit when bee populations are healthy.
Native bees are solitary creatures and do not nest in hives. Depending on the species, the majority make homes in the ground with the rest nesting in dead trees and wood.
To encourage bees to nest in your yard, provide a small patch of soil in your yard that is free of grass and weeds. Place a few logs and twigs on top of the soil and drill holes in the logs so that the bees can nest in them (only the carpenter bee can drill their own holes). Make the holes different sizes as different species prefer different size nesting holes. Make the holes between 3/32" (2 millimeters) and 5/16" (8 millimeters) wide. If soil erosion is a problem, plant a couple of clumping grasses on the site to help keep the soil in place.
Mason bees love to pollinate fruit trees. Placing a mason bee house near your trees is an easy way to encourage them to stick around longer and help to ensure a bountiful harvest.
Don't use pesticides in your gardens. Bees are very susceptible to pesticides and this may be the number one reason for their decline. Even homemade concoctions can be harmful to bees, so only use them for their intended purpose and never spray them on a bee in your garden.
Grow a variety of plants in your yard to encourage more bees to live in your habitat. Bees are more attracted to a variety of plants more so than a mass planting of one particular plant. Here's a list of plants that are a favorite of native bees: