Planning The Perfect Perennial Bee Garden: What To Plant To Provide Support All Season Long

planting the perfect bee garden

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An interesting article from our guest blogger Christy Erickson. Thank you so much, Christy.

What to Plant to Support our Bees all Season long

Planting perennials in your home garden is a great way to help local bees who are facing multiple threats to their species. A robust garden planted with these insects in mind can attract bees and provide them nutrition and shelter all season long. While a bee-friendly garden is typically comprised of many different types of plants, there are many reasons why perennials are an excellent choice.

Perennials set the stage for an enticing bee garden

 As the DIY Network explains, perennials are plants that come back every year, versus annuals that die over the winter and have to be replanted each spring. Perennials go dormant during the winter months, but then spring back to life and they can be a great choice for those who are new to gardening. These plants are not necessarily as showy as annuals that produce intense blooms during their season, but they can make a solid base for your bee garden.

honey-bee

One reason that perennials do so well in attracting bees is that they usually produce a lot of flowers throughout a long blooming period, details Michigan State University. With a bit of planning, you can put together an array of perennials that will offer a steady source of nutrition for bees from early spring, through late fall, and until the first hard frost of winter, even if you have a relatively small space to work with for your garden.

Shoot for blooms covering the full bee season

By planning for sequential blooms from a variety of plants in your garden, you are likely to attract multiple species of local bees and provide options for foraging bees who are struggling to find food elsewhere. Crocus, daffodils, and bluebells are typically early season bloomers, and these can get the bees off to a great start headed into the spring months.

Joybilee Farm suggests planting willow, as it’s often one of the first blooms to emerge in the early spring when there is little else for bees to choose from. Crabapple trees bloom in the early spring after the willows, and they are integral for cross-pollination with other types of apple trees. Other popular spring bloomers that are particularly bee-friendly include bleeding hearts, lupine, and wild geraniums.

For anyone living in Southwest Florida, gardening takes on a different tone due to the mingling of subtropical and tropical climates. Choices for what to plant change considerably in this part of the world, so native plants are obviously ideal here. Flowers to consider are blackeyed Susans, cannas, marigolds, purple coneflower and trailing lantana, and ideal shrubbery are saw palmettos or Walter’s viburnum.

There are plenty of bee-inspired choices for the summer and fall

Berry plants are excellent choices for a bee garden and they typically peak in June and July, the height of the bee season. Incorporate a mix of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and other types to lure in various species during the summer months. Additional good summer flower picks include evening primrose, coneflowers, lobelia, bergamot, and sage as well as salvia and honeysuckle.

honey

Bee balm tends to bloom as the berries hit the middle of their season and it continues to thrive until the first hard frost hits. Elderberry and goldenrod also fit into this group, and additional fall-blooming varieties include asters and sunflowers. You can always incorporate annuals along with herbs, fruits, and vegetables into your bee garden, but perennials make a great base to design around. 

Many different types of gardens attract and support struggling bee populations, but focusing on perennials is a great place to start. With some advance planning, you can coordinate your plantings to bloom from late winter through the spring, summer, and fall so that these essential pollinators have plenty of nutrition available throughout their entire active season. Designing your garden with a succession of bee-friendly perennial blooms will both help these vital insects thrive and give you a gorgeous space to enjoy month after month.

A plant commonly known as the Bee Balm plant as its fragrant flowers attract honey beesbutterflieshummingbirds and other pollinating insects, the bee balm plant has a long history of medicinal uses by American Eclectic physicians, Native American tribes, and herbalist

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Bees are dying Globally at an Alarming Rate

What would happen if all the bees disappeared?

Bees pollinate about 70 of the 100 crop species that feed 90% of the world population (animals and humans alike). Simply put: Without bees, the food supply would sooner or later collapse. There is no way to do the pollination process effectively without the help of the bees. A severe world wide hunger crisis would be unavoidable.

What is CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder)?

What does CCD look like? CDD appears to affect the central nervous system of the bee. The adult bees seem to lose the ability to navigate. They leave their hive and never find back home. The queen and a small population of bees stay in the hive to do housekeeping tasks. However, without the workers which swarm out every day to bring food, they are doomed. The colony will eventually collapse and disappear.

What causes CCD?

There are several suspected causes affecting the honeybee population. Although, at this point, the specific cause is not known. However, suspected causes are:

  • chemical contamination of the food (including nicotine -based insecticides)
  • lack of genetic diversity (it seems to affect only the European honeybee Apis mellifera)
  • poor nutrition
  • parasites (mites)
  • fungus infection
  • genetically modified plants
  • climate change

How severe is CCD?

It depends on the location, however, a loss of 30 – 45% of the bee population during the winter months is not a rare event. Last winter the average beekeeper in Germany lost 20 – 30% of his bees due to CCD. In some areas, like Berlin and Hamburg, more than 30% did not make it.

What can we do?

The solution is very complicated and complex. Banning the use of a certain class of pesticides alone will not do the trick.  The European’s have put a two-year ban on the use of neonicotinoid to see if that would keep the bees alive.

There is also growing evidence that the use of fungicides may affect the bee population. Farmers try not to spray pesticides when pollinating bees are around. So far, nobody thought about precautions when applying fungicides. There is another problem when using chemicals: Even when you are very careful, today’s agricultural spraying practices can not prevent pesticides from drifting over to other plants nearby.

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