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Bee-friendly Landscaping

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So what does support bees? Dr. Delaplane emphasized creating uninterrupted bloom on your property. “The real kicker for trying to improve your property for bees is to have an unbroken succession of bloom all season long. If you can create an assembly of plants on your property so that there’s bloom all spring and summer, it’s one of the best things you can do, especially for the bumblebees,” said Delaplane. “They depend very heavily on having a lot of stuff flowering in mid-summer because that’s the time of year that they’re producing next year’s queens. That’s the real key there is to try to time your planting calendar so that there’s always something blooming on your property.”

“Here in Georgia, we have a real dearth in June, July and August,” said Dr. Delaplane. “Most of the blooming plants are spring. What that means for a homeowner is you make note of those times in your calendar that are naturally short on flowering plants, and try to fill in the deficiencies. A good candidate is sunflower. Sunflower is a mid-summer bloom. You can plant it and other times there’s not a lot of other things blooming. Some of your sages are midsummer blooms. Crepe myrtle is a midsummer bloom.”

“One of the best ways to get a varied diet with bees is to plant a lot of different plants. It’s not necessarily the nectar, it’s the pollen protein that you can diversify that way,” said Dr. Delaplane. Dr. Huang said that even vegetable gardens can help feed bees. He said, “If you have mostly greens, of course it doesn’t help much, but if you have other plants that produce flowers that would help, too. A lot of crucifer plants, cabbage and stuff, produce flowers. Broccoli only when producing seeds in the later stage. Lettuce doesn’t help, but in general even just a vegetable garden is still better than none, because even if it’s not flowering, it still provides a home for caterpillars and stuff, which provide food for wasps.”

Create a Habitat for Bees

“As far as nesting sites go for honeybees and other bees, bees like to have lands that are kind of undisturbed for the long term. A good example of this is a fence row or a hedge that goes for years and years without being mowed, or run over, or destroyed,” said Dr. Delaplane. “Bees love hedge rows,” he continued. “The longer they last, the more species-rich they get with flowering plants. In Europe, they have a longstanding history of putting hedge rows in between their fields, in England and Ireland. It’s one of the best things you can do for pollinators, because it creates little islands in a habitat that may otherwise be rather unfriendly. Hedge rows with long-lasting plants is a good strategy for pollinators as well.”
Subterranean bee nests need human TLC, too. Dr. Delaplane went into some depth discussing them. He said, “A lot of subterranean nesting bees have nesting areas that tend to be very long lived. We’re talking in some cases decades, even. If landowners are aware of these nesting sites, treating them gently with a gentle touch is really the best practice. Even something as innocent as driving across it with a heavy tractor, for instance, can kill subterranean bee sites.”

How do you know if you have a subterranean bee nest on your property? Dr. Delaplane said, “A lot of people notice them because there will be for a period of several days, maybe a week, usually in spring there will be a burst of activity close to the ground of insects just furiously flying to and fro. And if you look closely, you’ll see that the ground is just perforated with little holes. They’re superficially similar to ant mounds. At first glance, you’d think that’s what it is, an ant pile or something. In fact, a large number of these subterranean holes are soil nesting bees. Soil nesting bees are head and shoulders the biggest group of bees out there, even bigger than social bees like the honeybee, as far as number of species go. They also tend to be very active for a period of a few days, and then disappear for the rest of the year. The immatures are developing underground and you won’t see them for several months. They’re quite simple. Each one of them is just a simple borough that goes down into the ground. It’s a dead-end tunnel. It gives a false appearance of being a colony because you see so many of these bees flying back and forth but they’re not a colony. Their holes are not interconnected. Each one is its own little apartment, so to speak. The analogy is better to think of an apartment complex rather than a colony, because you have a bunch of individual females that are each of them nesting in their own hole.”

“Most people, when they see these things, they freak out and they try to get spray and kill the bees; what I’m saying is: don’t do that,” said Dr. Delaplane. “These bees are very gentle. They don’t sting. They’re active for just a few days out of the year. During that active period they’re extremely good pollinators. When you notice these sites, just kind of make a mental note of it, and try to not destroy it. Don’t plow it. Don’t disk it. Don’t drive over it. Don’t bulldoze it. Try to keep it there. It will last a long, long time. That’s one no-brainer. If you know where the bees are already nesting, just kind of let them be,” he said.

Be an Urban Beekeeper

“Some of the best bees I ever deal with are urban bees,” said Dr. Delaplane. “We in Atlanta have not one but two thriving beekeeping associations in the metro area. Honeybees do great in an urban environment. A lot of it is for reasons we’ve already talked about for reasons that in an urban setting, there tends to be a lot more floral diversity than there is in an agricultural setting. It makes sense if you think about it. You have a lot of residential yards,” he said. Dr. Huang said, “Every state would have a state beekeeping association. Michigan has a Web site, There’s also regional ones, like Eastern Apicultural society, and there’s also Midwestern organization called Heartland Bees. There’s also Western Bee Association. In each state there are county-based [organizations], like in Detroit there are SIMBA, Southeastern bee association, and there are about 400 members. In Michigan, we have probably 1000 beekeepers.”

A Final Thought on Local Honey

“I think another way you can support local bee populations is to buy local honey,” said Dr. Delaplane. “Number one,” he said, “it’s consistent with the whole idea of buying local. In the case of honeybees, you’re going to be benefiting local bees from local beekeepers. You’re going to be enjoying honey that’s produced in your neighborhood with your unique floral mix. It’s just a no-brainer. Buy honey from a local beekeeper.”

More on Bees:

Apitherapy: Medicine Made by Bees
Honey Laundering
Bee Stings: Prevention and Therapy

Read more: Conservation, Home, Lawns & Gardens, Nature, Nature & Wildlife, Wildlife, ,

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5:03AM PDT on Aug 28, 2015

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4:24AM PDT on Aug 26, 2015

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9:39PM PDT on Oct 28, 2014

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9:39PM PDT on Oct 28, 2014

Fastidious blog you’ve got here. I’ve ever been seeing you just about many blogs recently.

9:01AM PDT on Aug 18, 2013

Thank you for sharing

7:10PM PDT on Aug 16, 2013

thanks for the information, need to attract more bees

11:30AM PDT on Jul 10, 2013

Trying to do this in my garden, I'm not really bothered about the lawn so long as it doesn't get out of control.

10:24AM PDT on Jul 6, 2013


10:23AM PDT on Jul 1, 2013

We need our bees! Thanks

7:08AM PDT on Jun 29, 2013

Bees have three environments, hive (air), holes, and ground. Holes, which mason bees use quite readily, are one of the easiest ways to raise and foster bees. Do look up mason bees in Wikipedia, or Read about BeeGAP (Bee Gardeners Adding Pollinators) while there. Our orchards will need your excess bees soon!

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