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Gardening for pollinators. Not just planting.

Bumble bee and cone flower

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

On Wednesday, 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. Pesticides will kill ground nesting bees.
  • Avoid thick turf.  Thick turf makes it hard for bees to dig holes to build their nests.
  • Avoid compacting the soil. Paths and high traffic areas are not good nesting sites.
  • Avoid heavy mulch. Use leaves for mulch. The are easier for the bees to reach the ground and dig a nest.
  • Avoid irrigating heavily. Flooding the nest doesn't help.
  • Don't use landscape fabric. Hard to dig through plastic.

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.