With more warm weather and long summer days ahead, this may be the year to create a buzz-worthy garden—in the truest sense of the word. A haven for honey bees and other pollinators to gather nectar and pollen not only looks beautiful, but can benefit both you and them alike.
Statistics Canada reports that honey bee populations in Canada are at their highest level in over a decade. Still, they face their share of challenges, such as parasites and diseases that can infect hives, inclement weather and inadequate nutrition to feed their hive.
First-time gardeners and experienced green thumbs alike can help increase access to nutritious food sources for honey bees and other pollinators. It all starts with planting a few seeds.
Planting more pollinator-friendly gardens in urban and rural areas is one way to help raise awareness of the challenges facing pollinators like honey bees. Adequate food sources support pollinators like honey bees, who often travel far distances to find nutritious food that they can collect and store for the winter. And for your efforts, you'll have beautiful and colourful additions to your garden.
Follow these four steps to have your garden buzzing in no time:
1. Get the right seeds
If you're unsure of what to plant to create your pollinator-friendly garden, it's okay. Bees Matter is giving away free seed packets to celebrate National Planting Week, happening June 5 through 12.
Each kit includes seeds for five non-invasive types of flowers that bloom at different times throughout the season and thrive in our Canadian climate, providing honey bees and other pollinators with nutritious food sources all summer long.
2. Grow some food for yourself and the honey bees
It's not just flowers that can help honey bees out. Many foods that we enjoy are sources of nutrition for honey bees too. Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and onions are all pollinator-friendly, and can be useful in the kitchen at the same time. Lavender is another option, which has the added benefit of a great scent.
3. Hydrate properly
Hydrating a garden can be tricky—too much water can drown your plants, but too little water and they'll wilt. Getting your watering routine right is important to ensure your plants and flowers are healthy throughout the entire season and can attract and nourish honey bees and other pollinators for as long as possible.
First, make sure that the soil isn't too compact around your plants. Densely packed soil will stop water from draining properly, and could cause roots to rot because of too much moisture. Test and see whether your plants need water by poking your thumb an inch or so deep in the surrounding dirt. Your plants could use more water if the soil you feel at the bottom is dry.
4. Make a honey bee bath
Just as your plants need water, so too do honey bees. But a typical bird bath won't do the job. Instead, honey bees need somewhere to land in order to drink and collect water without drowning.
To create a honey bee bath, start with a shallow bowl or plate and line it with rocks. Add a little bit of water, just enough so that there's a layer at the bottom while leaving the rocks dry to act as landing pads. Then, put the bath at ground level in your garden. Remember to top it up with water daily, putting in just enough to evaporate by the end of the day.
A little seed goes a long way
Pollinators, including honey bees, support a lot of the food that we eat – approximately one out of every three bites, in fact. Supporting honey bee health is not only important for its own sake, but for our ecosystem, too.
And that's what all the buzz is about.