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Tips for a bee-friendly garden. Not just planting.

Bumble bee and cone flower

Hi, This is Adriana, the beekeeper from South Mountain Bees.

And these are easy to follow tips to help ground nesting bees.

  • Do not use pesticides. 
  • Avoid thick turf.  
  • Avoid compacting the soil. 
  • Avoid heavy mulch. 
  • Use leaves for mulch.
  • Avoid irrigating heavily. 
  • Don't use landscape fabric. 

Where did I learn all this? It was the beginning of the pandemic, and everything went virtual. Then I decided to sign un for presentations on bees and gardening.

I attended a Penn State Extension virtual seminar on Gardening for Pollinators, by Connie Schmotzer, and besides talking about what plants to plant to attract, host, and feed pollinators, and the extra benefits of gardening with native plants, she also described what we could do to protect the habitat of ground nesting bees.

Although we are all familiar with the honeybee, that nests in hives, or tree cavities at least 7 feet above the ground, or a nice gap in a house wall, 70% of bees are ground nesters. Bumble bees, a familiar siting in our yards, nest underground.

So here are a few recommendations to provide and preserve underground nesting sites.

Bees need undisturbed ground:

  • Do not use pesticides. Why? Pesticides will kill ground nesting bees.
  • Avoid thick turf. Why? Thick turf makes it hard for bees to dig holes to build their nests.
  • Avoid compacting the soil. Why? Paths and high traffic areas are not good nesting sites. It's hard to dig holes in compacted soil.
  • Avoid heavy mulch. Why? Thick and compacted mulch is hard to go through for bees. Some of them are really tiny.
  • Use leaves for mulch instead. Why? They are easier for the bees to reach the ground and dig a nest.
  • Avoid irrigating heavily. Why? Flooding the nest doesn't help.
  • Don't use landscape fabric. Why? Although they can chew their way through plastic, it is hard to dig through it.
bumblebee flying towards a  pink coneflower.

If we dedicate a few square feet of undisturbed soil to host ground nesting bees, we will be supporting biodiversity and the survival of native pollinators. And from all the things we can do to help, this one is probably the easiest one, since we don't have to do anything. Just let nature do its thing.

 

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