The process of pollination involves transferring pollen grains from one flower to another. It can be done within a single flower or it can be done between the separate flowers. A successful pollination process produces viable fruit and seeds. And this process makes attracting bees and other pollinators all the more important to your home garden.
Most crop plants rely on wind or insects to pollinate them. Fruits and vegetables require the pollination of insects via pollen and nectar. Among the various types of insects that pollinate plants are bees, butterflies, and flies. When starting your garden, consider the importance of pollination in giving you the best produce yields and nicest flowers possible.
Golden Rules for Garden Pollinators
There is so much involved in creating a perfect (if that exists) habitat for pollinators. It’s certainly worth your time to “go big”, but here are our quick tips to set the stage and get you started:
- Plant native flowering plants near the garden, with flowers that are long-lasting getting extra emphasis
- Create nesting areas for cavity-nesting bees (see: Mason Bees below)
- Do not spray insecticides or fungicides on flowers or fruit trees — really, it should be quite obvious why that’s not good
- If pesticide applications are necessary, choose a product with the least toxicity to bees — likely this is only relevant for commercial gardeners
How to Attract Bees to Your Garden
To attract bees, simply plant flowers and shrubs that bloom at different times of the year. Bees eat nectar and pollen, so aim for varieties with easily accessible pollen and an abundance of nectar. Here are a few varieties to attract pollinating bees:
- bergamot (also called “bee balm” — obvious choice!)
- borage (really, so many reasons why you should have this in your garden anyway)
- cardoon (the only on this list that I don’t currently have but am adding this season)
- cucumbers (hey, and they are tasty, too!)
- echinacea (also called “coneflower”)
- marigolds (should be a staple in your garden)
There are many more, but those are ones that I’ve had great success growing. Almost all of them serve more purposes than just attracting pollinators. My wife uses some in her homemade scrubs, salves, and tinctures, for instance.
Native Mason Bees
Mason bees must be a priority.
No, mason bees don’t make honey but they do pack a punch with their pollination skills. Just 250-300 females can pollinate an entire acre of apples or cherries. They have a range of about 50-100 meters so you’d be helping your immediate neighbors as well. They are at least 3-times more efficient pollinators than honeybees.
Another difference is that the mason bee doesn’t live in a colony. The prefer to make a small nest rather than a hive. They prefer a solitary life. They are more active early in the season than honeybees making them important especially throughout the spring.
Mason bees are a native species in North America. It’s entirely possible you have some buzzing around your garden already! With a few supplies such as the mason bee house we list below, and some background, you could easily begin your own population of these native pollinating powerhouses.
Some experts have hinted that improving small wild bee populations could be of the utmost importance for the future food supply. With bee populations dwindling in many areas, the small, native species are that much more important.
They’re not aggressive making them a great addition to a family garden.
As mason bees are not able to produce honey, naturally a honey bee might be an important addition. Keep in mind that by no means do you have to have a high right in your backyard. Still, attracting honey bees will always be worth the time. If you do have interest in building a honey bee population with a hive, the one below came recommended to me in the past. I can’t recommend it personally, but the person who does is quite knowledgeable.