It is estimated that 60% of bee populations have disappeared around the world. Some countries have estimated an even greater amount. While the debate rages on about specific causes, it is certain that habitat loss plays a fundamental role as well as ubiquitous pesticide usage. An even more sobering fact is that one third of the world’s food supply depends upon insect pollination, which is mostly carried out by the dutiful bee.
As a bee lover & photographer, I have felt helpless in being able to make much of a difference in this unfortunate scenario…other than signing various petitions locally & globally as well as limit my own usage of pesticides (which are organic). Yet there IS more that we can do, especially if we have a garden area to dedicate to wild (“solitary”) bees.
In North America, there are an estimated 4000+ wild bee species in existence. These bees do not behave like honey bees do…they depend upon natural habitat areas to provide them with shelter and a home to create their offspring. You can create such a habitat with this simple & easy project, and we have some others tips on attracting wild bees and other pollinators (“invertebrates”) into your garden space.
Wild bees include bumblebees and “solitary bees” which are non aggressive: Carpenter, Alfalfa-Leafcutter, Mason, and Hornfaced bees. These bees do not sting, and can be safely observed from a close distance.
What you’ll need for this project:
- Untreated wood that’s 4-8 inches deep.
- Drill (bit size 1/4-1/2″)
My bee habitat is made from some local wood (oak logs). Drill holes into the wood (mine are 6-8 inches deep) to a diameter of up to 1/2 inch. Drill all the way through. It IS important to drill the holes deep enough to encourage the bees to feel “homey”. I have my habitat located next to the woodpile that we use for our wood stove in a quiet location in the yard. I plan to make more of these habitats, and place them around the yard (near the flower garden) this spring. It’s important that your wild bee habitat is kept in a dry area (away from rain) as the dampness will encourage wood rot & destroy your habitat.
You can also make a wild bee habitat out of bamboo (or reed) tubes. If you’re fortunate, you have some wild bamboo growing nearby, if not you can purchase them or buy a ready made bee house like this one (pictured right) from Amazon. Simply gather your reeds together in some sort of design that’s pleasing to the eye…and secure (with something as simple as leather straps to a more elaborate creation..).
A somewhat less manicured area of the garden where wildflowers (preferably local) dominate, and there is less emphasis on hybrid flowers is the “ideal” for wild bees.
Make certain to plant flowers that bloom throughout 3 seasons (from Spring to Autumn) to provide a stable environment for pollinators. These flowers will also attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollen loving “critters” (beetles, flies, and moths) depending upon which varieties you choose.
Flowers that wild bees love:
Aster, basil, bee balm, bergamot, borage, cosmos, flax, four-o’-clock, geranium, globe thistle, golden rod, helianthus, hyssop, lavender, lupine, marjoram, mint, mullein, poppy, rosemary, sage, skullcap, sunflower, thyme, verbena, wild rose, and zinnia. Also various fruit & flowering trees ,check your zone for specific pollinator species.
The Xerces Society: