Magazine article Sunset

Befriend Bees

Magazine article Sunset

Befriend Bees

Article excerpt

Give them food, shelter, and water to keep them pollinating your plants

Before a flower can set seed or form fruit, it needs to be pollinated. Though some plants are pollinated by bats, birds, butterflies, moths, and wasps, most of the work is done by bees.

Bees are in serious trouble, though. Their numbers are in sharp decline, mainly because of shrinking habitat. Fortunately, bees have some dedicated advocates like the Xerces Society (see "Learn More," opposite). And home gardeners can help too. Here's what you can do to promote a bee-friendly environment in your garden.

* Provide food. Grow plants that bear flowers with plenty of nectar and pollen. Some native bees and native plants, including penstemon and salvia, are literally made for each other. Old-fashioned, heirloom-type flowers like bee balm, black-eyed Susan, cleome, sunflower, and zinnia are also excellent; they have more pollen and nectar than highly developed hybrids. Lavender, rosemary, thyme, and many other herbs also have blossoms that bees favor. It's also helpful to include a large range of colors in your garden, especially blue, violet, white, and yellow. Aim to have something in bloom from early spring to late fall so that winged visitors are never without nourishment.

* Furnish housing. One of the biggest challenges bees face is finding suitable nesting sites. We're not suggesting you house honeybee colonies; that's for professionals. But the majority of our approximately 4,000 species of native bees (honeybees are a European import) are solitary-essentially, single mothers raising their young alone. …

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