How can you help honey bees?

planting big
American Agri-Women celebrated 40 years of agvocacy with their “Drive Across America” celebration, stopping in the Triangle area to plant a pollinator garden and partner with the Bayer Bee Care Center.  AAW promotes the welfare of our national security through a safe and reliable food, fiber and mineral supply.
One-third of our food comes from plants that depend on pollination. Yet lack of proper nutrition is one of the major threats to honey bee health. You can help to make sure that bees have the pollen and nectar they need for food by growing bee-attractant plants. The closer their food sources are to their hives, the less energy bees will need to spend flying to nectar and pollen.

You can do your part in your own backyard by planting a pollinator garden. Pollinator gardens can encompass anything from a small planter on the balcony of your apartment to a large backyard space filled with beautiful flowers.
Wildflowers are almost always a good choice because they are able to thrive in a lot of different soil and weather conditions.

Know what grows in your area.

The first step in growing plants that can provide food sources for honey bees is to determine the plants that will be the most popular with bees in your area. Most native perennials will attract both native bees and honey bees. A good tool, the Pollinator Partnership’s Bee Smart mobile app, can help you select the best native plants in your area to attract bees. Bayer’s Feed a Bee initiative encourages people to grow pollinator-attractant plants to provide forage areas for bees.

Although it is ideal to use native plants, here are 15 popular flowers, herbs, and plants that can be grown in most areas of the United States: lavender, rosemary, sage, coneflowers, sunflowers, redbuds, catnip, penstemon, lamb's ears, verbena, bells or phacelia, aster, black-eyed susans, oregano, and yarrow.

An important consideration for a garden or yard is that bees need year-round access to nectar and pollen. Learning about and planting a variety of pollinator-attractant plants that bloom across all seasons when bees are active is another way to help bees.
DOT sunflowers
These sunflowers along North Carolina’s roads and highways are a result of a project between Bayer and the North Carolina Department of Transportation to provide 46 some acres of bee-attractant vegetation across the state. From small planters to backyard gardens to acres of flowers, everyone can do something to help feed the bees.

Keep these tips in mind.

  • Include diverse flower colors, fragrances, and shapes. Bees are especially attracted to flowers in shades of blue, purple, white, and yellow.
  • Plant in full sun. Many pollinators prefer to visit sunny locations. (This blog explains more about bees and rainy days.)
  • Plant generously. Large groupings of flowers are more attractive than single plants. (This video demonstrates how to plant seeds.)
  • Plant non-hybrid flowers. Many hybrids are bred to have less fragrance, nectar or pollen.
  • Water plants as needed, and remember that even native plants will need water until they are well-established.  
  • Provide the proper habitat for nesting and cover for pollinators.
  • If you use pesticides, do so wisely. Follow all label instructions.

“Bee” aware

With bee-attractant plants nearby, you will surely see these insects hard at work. Be aware of your surroundings to avoid stepping on bees, and don't swat if one is buzzing nearby. Honey bees are docile insects and only act aggressively when they feel threatened. In addition, try to avoid scented lotions and deodorants that may attract bees to you instead of your flowers. Know your honey bee facts.

For more ideas, please visit our Gardening section.

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