Creating a Bee-Friendly Habitat in the Home Garden

Two bees flying to aster flowers

Welcome bees to visit (perhaps even stay a while) by creating a bee-friendly habitat in your home garden. Tips for supporting garden bees with nourishment, suitable shelter, health, safety, and more.

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Bee-ing Bee-Friendly

It’s Bee Awareness Month in New Zealand and the Great Kiwi Bee Count is in progress. Fittingly, this month’s mini-series is all about the bees. Today we’re sharing tips for creating and maintaining a bee-friendly habitat in your garden. Roll out the VIBee treatment for your garden guests!

Creating a Garden Buffet for Bees

Busy bees need nectar for energy and pollen to grow the next generation. Adding nectar and pollen rich plantings to the home garden can help attract bees to your garden. See our post on selecting and planting flowers for bees.

Include some fresh clean water in your bee-friendly habitat. A shallow pool where they can land on the margins (or rocks / water plants in larger sources) works nicely.  If the buffet is great, they might even decide to stay for a while!

Allowing Space for Bees to Shelter and Create Homes

Allow or create spaces for bees to seek shelter and create homes. There are a wide variety of bee species, with different nesting habits and shelter needs. Here are some ideas for creating and supporting opportunities for shelter in your bee-friendly garden habitat.

Respect the Nesting (Hive) Sites of Social Bees 

Bumblebees and honeybees are social bees, nesting in groups. Bumblebee nests are often in dry dark places. Hollows, cavities, underneath structures, or underground burrows are favourite places.  Wild honeybees often build under the edges of structures or in natural cavities for cover and predator protection. Coexisting is the ideal, but if a nest or hive is posing a significant safety risk or causing damage, call in an expert to safely relocate the hive. 

Materials for Tunnelling and Nesting of Solitary Bees

Most of us like to keep things tidy. We clean up dead branches, dispose of old building materials, and keep our structures in good repair. Solitary bees nest in small holes and tunnels, such as inside of dead wood, crumbling walls, or for some species even bare soil. Removing these eliminates habitat. Bee-friendly gardening makes it ok to be a little messy sometimes. If you can’t allow more natural accommodation in the garden, consider a neat and tidy insect hotel. 

Install an Insect Hotel for Solitary Bees

You can buy insect hotels, but make sure that they are suitable for the local species you want to shelter (see more below on being a good landlord). If you’d like to customise for your local solitary species and/or available space, there are plenty of great DIYs online. As shown in the infographic below, there are many ways to make and site a shelter.  Don’t forget to include holes of varying sizes for different species. We haven’t (yet) built a bee hotel for our garden, but Air Bee and Bee has a nice ring to it! I may have to include a sign.

Many bee hotels (bought or made) are, unfortunately, not as luxurious as you may think. To avoid accidentally becoming a bee slumlord, make sure that your bee hotel offers sufficient protection from wet weather and enough backing to avoid wind tunnelling through. It is best to avoid using materials that don’t breathe, will become waterlogged, or are likely to attract condensation. Remember to provide good housekeeping for hotel guests. Check out this excellent article on building, siting, and managing a bee hotel

Become a Backyard Beekeeper

If you want to go a step further and become a backyard beekeeper with your own little hive of honeybees, check your local council regulations to see what is and isn’t permissible in your area.  It can also be helpful to speak with your neighbours before installing a hive.  If you’re good to go and keen to start, get in touch with your local beekeeping association or group for experienced expert guidance. 

Supporting the Health and Safety of Garden Bees

Toxins: Minimise Use of Chemicals

Many insecticides are generic killers, affecting your bad bugs as well as your beneficial insects, including friendly bees and butterflies. Many fungicides and other garden chemicals can be harmful as well. See our post about chemicals and pest control in bee-friendly gardens for more details and ideas.

Disease: Support Local Bee Health Initiatives

The diseases and parasites affecting bees will vary depending on your local area. Be alert for warnings and safety tips from your local agencies, and always abide by the restrictions regarding the transport or import of honey. As a general bee health practice, make sure empty honey containers are thoroughly washed before recycling.

Predators: Protect Your Bee Nesting Sites

Some predator activity is inevitable, such as birds and spiders while the bees are foraging, but we can offer a degree of protection in other areas. The predators affecting bees will vary depending on your local area. Check your local risks and ensure that you have adequate siting and protection if/as needed for any nesting sites that you have created.

Creating an Insect Hotel for Bees and Bugs

The following infographic was shared by invitation from Check out their full Insect Hotel post and infographic for more ideas! 

Source: Blog
Creating a Bee-Friendly Habitat in the Home Garden

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