Gardening for Bees

Every year I plant food for the bees; without their cheerful buzzing and little bee moves all over the garden I’d feel at a loss. Like a garden without birds or butterflies, a garden without bees has a big hole in its heart. This bright yellow beauty is called a, “Yellow-faced Bumblebee (Bombus vosnesenskii)” and is native to the west coast of North America.

Here you can see her peering at me as I take a close-up while she’s busily gathering pollen from a Toyon (Heteromeles Arbutifolia) blossom in my backyard habitat. I know we need bees to pollinate and that’s an essential reason why we need to be good stewards of the environment but I also see the personalities in these tiny beings. Each one is an individual and deserves respect. And besides, they can sting multiple times!

 

Both community gardens I have raised beds plots in are homes for European bee hives and have bee keepers.

 

Here’s a row of California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica) in a raised bed 20 feet long that I cultivated for the bees. They are a native spring wildflower so by mid-June start to go to seed. Once the pods are set and have exploded, the green parts of the plant die back. If you don’t pull it out, the poppy will come back next year. And by the way, you’ll have many seedlings! I always end up having to pull those out unless I can find another place in the garden for them.

 

The Herb and Flower garden is a mass of blossoms depending on the time of year but I try to have something blooming for the bees year-round. The raised bed is 4 feet wide and 20 feet long. The Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum) here is the perfect landing pad for bees, flies and butterflies. After the bloom, small birds come in to eat the seeds.

 

Cosmos is a favorite garden flower for me AND the Bees!

Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) is an elegant summer annual adding grace and delicate beauty to the garden. It reseeds and can grow up to 5 feet; I have to transplant or pull seedlings every year or the raised beds would become a monoculture of Cosmos!

 

Plant any Lavender and bees will be there to feast. This one is a Provence French Lavender (Lavandula intermedia ‘Provence’), intensely fragrant and has prolific, long flower stems that wave in the breeze. Gorgeous.

 


The Yellow-faced Bumblebee can be a cavity nester.

More than once when monitoring nest boxes on one of my trails I discovered a bumble nest on top of a spent bird nest. Here you can see how a Queen Yellow-faced Bumblebee made an intricate nest of hair for her family to come. And a close-up of the inside of her nest when all the bees are gone shows the little combs she made for the workers and finally a new Queen for next year. More often these Bumblebees make their dens in the ground.

 

A tangle of flowers is preferred.

Over the years I’ve found that a “wild garden” attracts more bees and butterflies than a neat, tidy one with a few flowers in rows. They like masses of flowers of the same type in full sun. After a long day at work or immersed in caregiving, life in the garden is a welcome respite and food for my soul just as the flowers are sustenance for my little friends, the bees…meditation in motion…buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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