Help Them Help You: Attracting Bees to Your Garden

Bees, those industrious and orderly creatures, make their living by collecting a plant's pollen and nectar and, in the ultimate win-win, subsequently pollenating other plants they visit. It's a mutually beneficial process that allows the bees to thrive and also ensures that our plants flourish. But modern farming techniques, including pesticide use and lack of plant diversity (monocultures), has severely interrupted this perfect cycle.

No doubt you've heard of Colony Collapse Disorder, the mysterious disappearance of huge numbers of wild and even domesticated bees. It's a serious concern; without bees, we would be a barren and hungry world. There are plenty of ways to help while also bringing as many bees to your garden as possible.

Here's how to make your garden a haven for bees:

1) Go organic. Bee health is just one of the many, many reasons to avoid pesticides in your garden. I promise you the extra weeding is well worth the better-tasting and more nutritious produce you'll grow.

2) Plant native. Bees in your area have developed a taste for and will seek out native plants. In fact, many people swear that eating local honey helps to alleviate allergies by gradually building a resistance to native pollen (similar to a vaccine).

3) Diversify. Bees are attracted to color and shape, so a large selection of different kinds of flowering plants is like a buffet for them. Fun fact: different species of bees have varying tongue lengths. They look for specific flower shapes that let them lap up the most nectar.

4) Cluster your plants. Would you rather visit 30 different stores to buy your groceries or just one? Bees will always look for an area with more bang for their buck. Plus, pops of color will really jazz up your garden.

5) Extend the season. Have you ever noticed that local honey tastes different at various times of the year? The bees are feeding on different types of plants! You can make sure they have a constant food supply by growing a variety of plants that bloom throughout the year.

(Image: Flickr member aussiegal, licensed under Creative Commons)