Bee Friendly Gardening

Scientists strongly encourage the adoption of bee-friendly gardening techniques today to help the declining bee population. These fuzzy little pollinators are critical for the world’s food supply but, thanks to something called Colony Collapse Disorder, more than a quarter of the U.S. bee population has died off since 2006. Bees along the Wasatch Front have lost their habitat to urbanization and increased pesticide use. Home gardeners in the Salt Lake City area can encourage local bees and other pollinators by planting bee-friendly gardens and learning more about the many challenges these species face today.

Encouraging the Honeybee Population

Home gardening offers the most basic level of encouragement for bee survival and reproduction. Using specific plants is only part of creating a bee haven, however. The arrangement of your garden can provide food, water and protection for bees and other pollinators, as well as a place to raise young plants. Most native bee species are solitary nest makers, using cavities in plant material or in the ground. With more than 900 species of bees native to Utah, it’s easy and fun to adapt your garden space to their needs.

Plants for Attracting Bees

Bees like a variety of plants, but incorporating at least some native plant species is important to encourage bee survival. Some of the most dependable, adaptable, and widely available bee-friendly flowers and plants include blue mist spirea, fernbush, hyssop, sunflower, lavender, Russian sage and penstemon. Herbs, fruits, and vegetables such as mint, thyme, squash, pumpkin, and raspberry bushes are also bee-friendly favorites.

Tips for Arranging Your Bee Garden

Bees prefer large patches of single plant types, as this allows them to forage in one spot for an extended period. Scattered plants require more energy for pollinators to fly from plant to plant. Avoid weed cloth and, if you like to use mulch, leave some areas of bare dirt as bees often won’t dig through a layer of mulch to build a nest. If you notice openings in the soil, try not to disturb these potential nest areas. If you have the space, consider adding a bee house or two in your garden. Finally, avoid herbicides and pesticides as much as possible including organic products.

Utah State’s Cooperative Extension publishes a helpful guide for bee gardening, with a full list of suggested plant species. The experts at Millcreek Gardens in Salt Lake can provide all the advice, plants, and other materials you need to get you started with bee-friendly gardening.

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