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  • Marie McKinsey

Create a Bee Friendly Garden

Updated: 2 days ago

A honey bee on a coneflower (Echincea sp.)

A bee visiting a coneflower (Echinacea sp.) Image credit:Marie McKinsey

Without bees, we wouldn't have much to eat and we would have far fewer herbs

and flowers to enjoy.

In order for fruits and seeds to form, a flower has to be fertilized with pollen from another flower of the same species. Some plants are self-pollinating, but most require help getting that yellow powder from one flower to another - and that is where the bees come in. As they visit flowers in search of food, they carry pollen with them and leave some behind at every stop.

Unfortunately, the bee population has been declining rapidly in recent years. There are various reasons for this including: parasite infections, exposure to pesticides, and loss of habitat due to over-development and intensive agriculture. The Seattle Times just did a feature on "Inside Washington's strugging honeybee industry," that explores these issues in detail.

Home gardeners can help restore the bee population by adding plants that provide food and habitat for bees, and by avoiding the use of pesticides and herbicides.


Here are some suggestions for bee friendly gardening:

  • Learn about the different kinds of bees and when they are active. Most people are familiar with honey bees. They live in hives, produce honey, and protect their queen. A lot of their energy goes into communal living.

  • Solitary bees, like mason and leaf-cutter bees do not live in a hive. Their energy is focused on gathering nectar to provide food for the next generation of their species. In the process, they pollinate more plants than honey bees. And because they don't have to protect stores of honey or a queen, they are gentle and rarely sting.

  • Choose flowers that are flat and have single rows of petals. These make it easy for bees to get to the nectar they are looking for.

  • Bees like blue, purple and yellow, so keep that in mind when you add flowering plants.

  • Different varieties of bees are active at different times of the year, so try to have something in flower in your garden from early spring into fall in order to provide food for all of them.

  • Leave a bit of brush, dry grass or dead wood in a protected corner of the garden to provide a nesting area.

  • Don't use pesticides.

Bees love borage!

Plants that bees love include:

  • Asters

  • Asclepias (butterfly weed)

  • Borage

  • Cistus (rockrose)

  • Echinacea (coneflower)

  • Fennel

  • Lavandula (lavender)

  • Mondara (bee balm)

  • Oregano

  • Penstemon

  • Rudbeckia (brown-eyed Susan)

  • Salvia

  • Sunflowers

  • Sweet alyssum

Bees love borage! Image credit: Marie McKinsey


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