As I am sure you can tell by now, I love having bees. I love the research. I love working them. I love just observing them, and I love their honey! In part, I also love the fact that we are doing our part on Paradise to help keep the overall bee population healthy. Without bees, there would be no food. Anywhere.
I also realize that not everyone wants to have bees, or has the place to keep them. Regardless, we can all do our part in assisting our little corner of the world to preserve these productive and providing creatures. It can be as simple as not killing them with a flyswatter, stomping on them when you see one outside or foregoing chemical pesticides. Another way you can assist them is to plant your yard and garden with things that will attract them, giving them plenty of food to take back to their hives. Remember, when the bees are well fed, your garden grows better and you also get honey! Here are a few plants you can add to your yard to attract our little winged friends:
1) Clover – It’s not just for finding a lucky four-leaf treasure. White or red, the color doesn’t matter. Bees love it. If you have clover in your yard, mow around it for a bit to allow the bees to feast on it.
2) Lavender – my favorite plant and scent! Bees love it, too. It also makes some delicious honey.
3) Mint – whether peppermint, apple mint, oregano or any other type of mint plant, bees love the taste.
4) Goldenrod – some people think this is just for aggravating your allergies, but the bees find it to be quite the delicacy.
5) Weeds – yes, those dreaded volunteer plants that most gardeners fear will one day take over the world. Dandelions, thistle, motherwort and joe pye-weed are a few examples.
6) Vegetables – squash, cucumber, beans – the list is almost endless.
7) Fruits – just think of a fruit basket. If it’s in the basket, the bees will pollinate it. Lemons, oranges, limes, peaches, plum, pears, apples…
8) Other herbs – sage, thyme, rosemary, if it’s an herb, the bees love it.
9) Sunflowers – who doesn’t love the happy faces of a sea of sunflowers? Not only do they benefit the bees, but cut the spent heads and lay them out for your birds. A two-for-one is always a good thing!
10) If you don’t want a ‘formal’ garden, try tossing wild flowers in your yard. Allow them to grow, bloom and begin to die off before you mow your grass. It may look a little wild, but your bee friends will certainly love you for it!
As a typical gardener, I tend to think in terms of spring planting for summer harvest, and rarely think about plants that will grow and bloom in fall. Bees continue to collect food for themselves until the weather gets too cold for them to fly. When planting, consider adding flowers, grasses or vegetables that will be available for your flying friends as the days get cooler and shorter. Buckwheat is a good fall grass here in the South. Salvia, Verbena, Goldenrod, Sedum and Ivy are good flowers, and Oregano and other herbs should have started their flowering in early to late fall. It’s probably best to check with your local Ag Center to see what will bloom in the late season. Just be sure to plant what you can to keep the bees happy through the winter. We are considering disking up some space to plant buckwheat. Pancakes, anyone?
The list of plants is almost endless. Planting for the bees will not only give your yard or farm a virtual sea of beauty, but it will also provide a virtual smorgasboard of food sources for these precious critters. From asters and sunflowers, mint to thyme, buckwheat to zucchini, bees love them. They will gather up the pollen in one flower then move to the next, pollinating as they go. After the bees are finished, you will have a better harvest than one without the bees. So think about bee friendly plants when you look at your yard or garden. Plant at least a few things that the bees will love. They will thank you. You will also thank them, when you bite into that juicy ripe peach pulled straight from the tree.