Submitted by Beth Rudnick
Want to be the bee’s knees this spring? Then let your yard be abuzz with what our most vital pollinators need to survive.
Bees are crucial to our survival. As pollinators, they are responsible for keeping thousands of species of plants alive and, of course, keeping us alive. Bumble bees – the larger, “fluffier” cousin of the honey bee – are rapidly approaching endangered status, but we can easily help by providing food, water, and safety in our yards or balconies.
First, it is hard for bees to use birdbaths for a drink. The water, being too deep, allows for accidental drownings. To create a drinking bath for bees, take a relatively flat dish (maybe an old baking dish or a terra cotta saucer) and add rocks and water. The rocks give the bees a resting spot while they take a sip. Put purple or violet-colored rocks in (like amethyst chunks) to attract bees.
Second, as hard as this is, don’t kill the dandelions! They are one of the bees’ first food sources in spring – and, as a matter of fact, are edible for humans. The leaves and flowers make great additions to salads, and the dried leaves can also be used to make tea.
Third, grab some pots or a sunny spot and plant a few bee-friendly native flowers. Possibly one of the best choices for a native, non-invasive plant is lavender. Lavender is hardy to our climate and needn’t be replanted each year. It loves full sun. If you prefer to do small pot gardening, lavender can be planted in pots but will not overwinter this way. For flower pots, basil, oregano, parsley are all great ideas that double as fresh spices for our kitchens. And the old Indiana stalwart, marigolds, are a favorite among bees.
Finally, if you are interested making an entire bee landscape, plant lemon balm! It is very invasive and will spread like crazy, so “bee” warned, but bees love this delightful lemony plant. It can also be planted in pots to control its spread (the pots can also be planted in the yard, but be sure to use pots that will degrade eventually), and it, too, can be used in salads or as a refreshing tea.
While many people have a fear of bees, remember that they are much less prone to sting than wasps. Wasps might be attracted to your flowers, and wasps do some pollinating of their own. But wasps are by nature more opportunistic, predatory, more social (meaning, hurt one and they allll come after you!), and are far more attracted to human food and other insects as meals than your plants. Wasps are your picnic and garbage can companions. Why pollinate if they can grab a ride on a pop can? Also, wasps tend to have more streamlined bodies with far less “fuzz” than the fatter bumble and honey bees, as the hairs help bees pollinate. The little bombers who come out of the ground to attack you and your lawn mower in fall are likely yellow jacket wasps, not bees.
These simple, one-day projects will help our busy, buzzy friends and give you some edible pleasures along the way.
Would you like to see more articles like this? Be sure to sign up for the Dig the Dunes weekly e-newsletter, right here!