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
Materials for Tunnelling and Nesting of Solitary Bees
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
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.