Christy Erickson, guest blogger, is the creator of SavingOurBees.org.
Most gardeners start to rein in their outdoor activities after Labor Day. But honeybees and other pollinating insects stay busy well into the fall and even early winter. You can help them out by using the tips you’ll find in this post. Mother Nature will appreciate the assistance, and so will your friends and neighbors, once they see how beautiful your garden looks long after summer is over.
Tip #1: Choose Long-Blooming Plants
The best plants for pollinators show off their colors from early spring until late fall. According to the U.S. Forest Service, you should plant them in groups so bees will have no trouble finding them. Avoid so-called “double flower” plants, as these often produce no nectar. Make sure you add some night-blooming varieties for bats and moths.
Tip #2: Get the Most Bang for Your Buck
Some plants are better pollinators than others. Choose types that grow well in your area, and you’ll get maximum return on your investment. At the same time, remember to add varieties that provide year-round beauty like hydrangeas, ninebarks, and pagoda dogwood.
Tip #3: Cool It With the Chemicals
Bees are sensitive to most commercial pesticides, so minimize your use of these products or avoid them altogether. You may want to consider insecticide alternatives like soapy water. You’ll find lots of eco-friendly pest control ideas on gardening websites or by asking other gardeners.
Tip #4: Don’t Weed Your Garden
Don’t be so quick to weed your garden. Some weeds, like clovers and dandelions, are a great food source for bees. Many wildflowers are classified as weeds but can be great for pollinators as well. If you must weed your garden, try to let your weeds bloom first so the bees can benefit.
Tip #5: Mulch in Moderation
Mulch can prevent bumblebee queens from finding a safe place to hibernate, according to National Geographic. Leave some areas of earth bare during fall and winter. It’s like putting out a welcome sign for our insect allies.
Tip #6: Discover the Joys of Milkweed
If you’re looking for a simple way to help pollinating insects, one that requires almost no gardening knowledge or expertise, then plant milkweed. This gorgeous wildflower is hardy, beautiful, and beneficial to the environment. Plus, it provides valuable forage for caterpillars even during the off-season.
Other Ways to Help Bees
Maybe gardening isn’t your thing. There are still ways you can help the bees. Here are some great ideas that take no weeding or mulching on your part:
- Buy honey from local beekeepers. These people are a vital part of the honeybee support network. They’re also small business people who could use your support.
- Spread the word by enlisting schools, civic clubs, faith communities, and other local entities in the fight to help pollinators thrive in your community.
- Scatter a few seeds. It’s that simple. Buy a pack of wildflower seeds and toss them around your yard, in a field, or at a local park (with permission, of course). Ask your county agent or garden center what types of bee-friendly plants grow well in your area.
- Live and let live. Myths aside, the truth is that most bees are not interested in stinging humans, so stop and think before swatting one. You can prevent most human-bee encounters by keeping sugary drinks and desserts covered at picnics and when roaming through the woods.
Planting a fall pollinator garden is a perfect way to bring a little beauty into the world while helping pollinating creatures do their jobs. The small amount of effort you’ll expend will help foster a sweeter world for everyone.