If you’re a gardener who isn’t too fond of bees, then it’s time to think again. Annoying as they may be, beekeeping and bees are actually extremely beneficial to your garden’s health. From extending your garden’s range, to providing the healthy sticky substance that is honey, bees will not only have an enormously positive impact on your life, but on the ecosystem as well.
Let’s start with some basic numbers. According to the NAPCC, Bees pollinate 80% of the flowering plants and 75% of the fruits, nuts, and vegetables grown in the U.S. What this means is that bees are critical to sustaining our ecosystem, especially in modern times. Sadly, the bee population today has greatly decreased – due to the rampant use of pesticides and external predation, the bee population is witnessing a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Man’s inherent fear of bee stings, and the perception that bees are “aggressive” and “dangerous” has led to a constant yearly decline in the population of pollinators. What most fail to understand is that without bees, our harvests would also decline substantially. No bees means no natural food!
Bees can also make a huge difference to your garden output. Your flowers and plants will bloom profusely, and the yield you get from fruits and vegetables will be much higher. Due to their nectar-gathering range, bees will fly and pollinate even beyond your yard, extending the garden’s range by a rather good amount. While you may not want to give up your non-native flowers and plants to attract bees, you may find that bees are interested in the same type of flowers that you like to grow yourself.
One of the most obvious benefits of beekeeping is honey production. Fresh warm honey, straight from the comb, is one of the most delicious items one could ever taste. Honey has numerous health benefits due to its anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties. In many cultures around the world, honey is used in a variety of natural remedies, such as honey and warm water to cure throat ache. In India, honey is and has been used in ayurveda for many years, as it is known to aid weight loss, improve eyesight, and settle nausea. In comparison with sugar, honey is a much better and healthier alternative as a sweetener.
Like all other living organisms, bees need food, water, and shelter. While there are many detailed guides on how to get started with beekeeping, this post serves as a quick guide on how to bring bees into the garden, without necessarily starting beekeeping as a formal process for those that aren’t ready to do so.
Food and Water
Bees like certain types of flowers more than others, and these serve as their main forms of nutrition. Most of the good advice nowadays is to plant native species in your garden as these are the ones that local pollinators have evolved to rely upon. It is also a good idea to provide different kinds of flowers, since flowers bloom at different times throughout the year. You don’t need to worry about bees chewing prize specimens. Rather, they will leave behind a trail of pollination, which doesn’t inflict any harm – so you can grow whatever special flora you prefer. Bees are especially attracted to blue, purple, and yellow flowers, so if any of these colors appeal to you too, then get planting! Note that your wildlife garden will also attract other pollinators, like wasps, hummingbirds, and butterflies. You will need to stop using pesticides, so as to provide a safe haven for these pollinators.
One of the simplest ways to provide water for wild bees is through a bird bath. A flat-surfaced stone placed in the center of the birdbath acts as the perfect watering hole, as well as resting pad. If you don’t have a birdbath, then a dripping faucet could do the trick as long as you’re willing to leave it on slow drip so that bees have a continuous water supply.
Shelter and Protection
Shelter for bees can range from very simple to quite elaborate, depending on the level of your beekeeping. From small empty patches of lawn, to putting together a pile of dead logs, bees are able to nest in many different places. A great afternoon activity, and one that your bees will thank you dearly for is constructing some “bee bungalows.” These are merely blocks of wood, with holes drilled into them around a thumb-width apart. Keeping these in a shaded area will provide the bees with a little hideout from parasites and insecticides used by others. If DIY isn’t your cup of tea, invest in a commercial bee home kit, and put it together with the family, making for a fun and informational holiday activity.
Since bees are often preyed upon, you might consider investing in electrified netting to keep predators like birds away. This is especially useful if you have other sort of wildlife often visiting your garden. This guide to animal-appropriate electrified netting options will help you determine the right type of option for your needs, without harming any potential predators.
Although keeping and attracting bees to your garden might seem like a bit of effort at the get-go, these wonderful pollinators are most definitely worth it. Not only are bees economically viable and require minimal effort once the initial setup is complete, they also very rigorously aid in sustaining our fragile eco-system.
[About the author: Akshata Mehta has a passion for traveling and exploring the world. She loves to write, and is interested in entrepreneurship and sustainability.]