The Birds and the Bees with Trace Barnett

Welcome to Garden Party! Today we’re talking about pollinators, how to attract them and what factors might affect your local honeybee populations.

How to attract honeybees to your backyard

Attracting honeybees to your backyard can be a wonderful way to support their population and enhance your garden’s vibrancy. To create an inviting habitat, you can follow these steps:

  1. Choose the right location: Find a spot in your backyard that receives ample sunlight, preferably with some shelter from strong winds. This will provide an optimal environment for the pollinator flowers and honeybees.
  2. Select a variety of pollinator flowers: Honeybees are attracted to a diverse range of flowering plants. Opt for a mix of annuals, perennials, and herbs that bloom throughout the growing season. Examples include lavender, sunflowers, coneflowers, bee balm, zinnias, borage, and salvia.
  3. Plant in flower borders: Create dedicated flower borders in your garden, where you can plant these pollinator-friendly flowers. Group them together, arranging taller plants towards the back and shorter ones towards the front, ensuring easy access for the bees.
  4. Utilize raised beds: If you have limited space or poor soil quality, consider using raised beds. Fill them with nutrient-rich soil and plant your chosen pollinator flowers in a similar manner as in flower borders.
  5. Incorporate containers: Use containers such as pots, hanging baskets, or window boxes to add more flowering plants. Be sure to provide drainage holes and use potting soil suitable for the specific plants. Place the containers strategically throughout your backyard, including near the flower borders and raised beds.

To attract honeybees effectively, ensure the following conditions:

  • Choose nectar and pollen-rich flowers with a variety of shapes and colors.
  • Plant in clusters or drifts to create a visual attraction and make it easier for bees to forage.
  • Avoid using pesticides and opt for organic gardening practices to protect the bees and their habitat.

Honeybees play a crucial role in the environment as pollinators. They facilitate the reproduction of plants by transferring pollen from male flower parts to female flower parts, enabling the production of fruits, seeds, and new plants. This process is essential for maintaining biodiversity and sustaining our food supply. However, honeybee populations have been declining due to various factors, including habitat loss, pesticide use, climate change, and diseases.

A bee pollinating a flower

By planting pollinator flowers in your backyard, you can provide a safe haven for honeybees and contribute to their conservation. Creating a suitable habitat with an abundance of nectar and pollen-rich flowers helps support their nutrition and overall health. Additionally, attracting honeybees to your garden can enhance the beauty of your surroundings through colorful blooms and promote a sense of ecological balance.

Ironically enough, the plants that bees love are also for the most part edible for human consumption; drought resistant, bloom profusely, showcase vivid colors,  and easy to care for. Many plant varieties are also perennial, which means you’ll be able to enjoy for years to come. Plant at least three types of plants in the desired location for your bee garden so that you will have plants in bloom all year long. Single blooming plants are also essential to purchase. Double or triple flowing plants are often difficult for bees to pollinate because of the multiple rows of petals.

Bee Facts

There has been a 90% decline in the number of bee colonies per hectare since 1962. Honeybees perform 80% of all pollination across the globe. 70 of the top 100 human crops require pollination by bees, which comes in at around 90% of all food crops requiring pollination.

Top factors that affect the bee population: Drought, Habitat Destruction, Nutrition Deficiencies, Air Pollution and Global Warming.

Famous rooftop beehives and gardens include the Vatican and Notre Dome. 

Planting Tips

If the plants are annuals, meaning they bloom heavily throughout the season an will not grow the following year, use potting soil straight from the bag with no amendments. If planting perennials or shrubs, add in soil amendments such as finely shredded bark, sand, or perlite.  Choose containers or garden beds that have adequate drainage and offer a deep planting space. Deep planting space is essential for perennials and shrubs and also reduce watering time in the warmer months. 

Think outside the box when shopping for containers. Consider scouring secondhand shops or flea markets for funky pieces that can be repurposed. Keep in mind that plants in containers dry out quicker and on windy days may need an extra drink of water. Fertilize as needed with an all natural and organic fertilizer. 

Some plants to consider are:
Basil, Rose, Thyme, Mint, Butterfly Bush, Sunflowers, Chives, Salvia, Cosmos, Lavender, Marigold, Coriander, Coneflower, Zinnias, Wild Lilac, Bee Balm, Hosta, Nasturtium, Squash, Oregano, Rosemary and Sage.

A guide to attracting hummingbirds to your home

  1. Choose the right flowers: Hummingbirds are attracted to brightly colored, tubular flowers. Opt for nectar-rich blooms such as bee balm, salvia, trumpet vine, columbine, and petunias. Plant a variety of flowers that bloom at different times to provide a continuous food source throughout the season.
  2. Provide a water source: Hummingbirds also enjoy bathing and drinking water. Place a shallow birdbath or fountain in your garden, making sure to keep the water clean and fresh.
  3. Hang hummingbird feeders: Supplement the natural nectar sources with a hummingbird feeder. To make an environmentally friendly feeder food, combine 1 part white granulated sugar with 4 parts water. Boil the mixture for a few minutes, then let it cool completely before filling the feeder. Avoid using red food coloring, honey, or artificial sweeteners as they can be harmful to hummingbirds. You can scale the recipe up or down as long as you keep the ratio of four parts water to one part sugar. Store unused hummingbird food in your refrigerator for 7-10 days, and bring it to room temperature before refilling your feeders.  

The food in your feeder needs to be changed frequently. In the heat of the summer, it can spoil in as little as two days. If you only spend weekends at the lake, please take down your feeders before you leave, and put them up when you return. The birds are much better off foraging on their own than being offered spoiled food.

Ideally, you should clean your feeder whenever you refill or replace the liquid. Don’t use dish soap, which can leave a harmful residue. Hot water is fine for most washes, but get a pipe cleaner or soft brush to focus on the feeding ports, and occasionally give it a good scrubbing with a mixture of one part vinegar to two parts water.

  1. Hang feeders strategically: Place hummingbird feeders in a shady area, away from windows to prevent collisions. Hang them at a height where they are easily accessible for the birds and provide enough space between multiple feeders to prevent territorial disputes.
  2. Maintain cleanliness: Regularly clean the feeders to prevent the growth of mold or bacteria. Rinse them with hot water and use a bottle brush to scrub away any residue. Refill the feeders with fresh nectar every 3 to 5 days, especially in hot weather.
  3. Create a safe habitat: Hummingbirds need shelter and protection. Plant shrubs and trees around your garden to provide perches and cover. Avoid using pesticides or herbicides that can harm these delicate creatures.
  4. Be patient and observe: It may take some time for hummingbirds to discover your garden and feeders. Be patient and observe their behavior. Once they start visiting, you’ll be rewarded with the mesmerizing sight of these beautiful creatures fluttering around your home.

Remember, attracting hummingbirds requires patience and consistency. By providing a variety of nectar-rich flowers, fresh water, and a well-maintained feeder, you’ll create an inviting environment that will attract these tiny, vibrant birds to your home. Enjoy the enchanting beauty they bring to your garden!

A hummingbird pollinating an orange flower.

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