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Some people hate the thought of bees buzzing around their flowerbeds, especially if they’ve been stung or are allergic to them. Others try to create the perfect environment hoping to attract anything with wings. I belong to the latter group, though I have been stung a few times.
I’m sure you’ve read or heard about the devastating effects man and nature has had on our bee and butterfly population over the past decade or so. It’s really quite sobering to think that so much of our food today depends on pollinators and how much we could lose if their population continues to plummet. I highly recommend checking out the documentaries, The Vanishing of the Bees and The Strange Disappearance of the Bees. They are a couple of years old but do a great job in explaining the importance of the honeybee population to our own existence.
raising honeybees is hard work!
A couple of years ago my hubby and I decided to try and raise our own honeybees. Let me tell you that it’s a lot harder than it looks! He wanted to do it for awhile and found a local expert who sold hives and other beekeeping supplies. We started with one hive and filled it with Italian Honeybees bought from a local beekeeper. The bees themselves came from Georgia. Unfortunately our first group did not survive the winter.
We tried again the following year with Italians bought from the same supplier. Neither hive survived the winter so we gave up. As much as we wanted to try again we hated to put all the money into new swarms so we decided to wait. But this past Spring I started noticing lots of honeybees on the clover in our yard. Around the same time I saw honeybees buzzing to and from my bird bath water fountain. My husband checked the hives and was surprised to see that there were bees coming and going from one of them. Imagine our surprise when a week or so later we realized that another group of bees started using our second hive! We’re now proud owners of two new swarms!
While we’re happy that these swarms decided to make our hives their home I still want to make sure my yard is appealing to all pollinators. This includes trying to help them find food and water when making a stop in my pollinator’s bed. You can see how I made it here. While I’m aware this little flowerbed isn’t going to feed a swarm of bees it will help any winged creature with a quick snack or drink most of the Spring, Summer and Fall.
My desire to help the pollinators isn’t only focused on bees though. I am a huge butterfly lover and designed this garden with them in mind. I’m heartbroken over the declining number of Monarch butterflies recently and want to do everything I can to help the ones who visit my space. Aside from not using pesticides, this garden is the one way I feel I contribute to that cause. You can build a successful garden, too with these basic guidelines.
4 things you’ll need in order to build a successful pollinator’s garden
One of the first things you need in order for your garden to be successful in attracting pollinators is a food supply. These flying friends are constantly traveling and need places to stop, rest and refuel so supplying various types of nectar sources is important. For starters you’ll need flowering plants that bloom at various times. Opt for plant varieties that bloom early spring, late spring, summer, late summer and fall. Try to have overlaps if possible. And don’t forget to offer a variety of plant sizes and shapes. Large flat flowers make a great spot for butterflies to land and rest while bell or cup shaped flowers welcome smaller creatures and even hummingbirds. You can find some of my favorite bloomers in this post.
Providing food is an essential part of attracting pollinators but it isn’t the only thing that will draw them in. They also need a source of fresh water. Whether you choose to install a pond, birdbath or fountain it’s up to you. If none of these options are doable you can create your own watering station that will be safer for small winged pollinators while still attracting birds, too. Find out how I made this watering station here. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to make a big difference. This project was inexpensive and I feel better knowing that the butterflies and bees have a safe place to drink from.
consider offering host plants to attract a variety of species to your garden
So now that your pollinators have food and water is there anything else that will draw them in to your garden? Yes! While the butterflies and other insects are traveling they are also looking for a place to lay their eggs. Planting host plants is very beneficial to your flowerbeds and to them! While many butterflies and birds prefer trees as a place to build nests or lay their eggs, plenty use smaller plants and shrubs. Here are a few plants you can add to your garden to offer as a food source for babies.
- Monarch Butterfly – Milkweed
- Eastern Black Swallowtail – Fennel, Parsley, Dill, Common Rue
- Baltimore Checkerspot – Turtlehead
- Clouded Sulphur – False Indigo
- Red Admiral – False Nettle, Hop
- Question Mark – False Nettle, Hop
- Gulf and Variegated Fritillary – Passionflower
The last thing you’ll want to offer your pollinator guests is shelter. The plants themselves will provide shelter for many of them but others may be willing to use man-made structures. I have a bluebird box in my garden and it housed a family of wrens this Spring. There are many types of butterfly boxes and bee boxes available, too nowadays. I’d love to add one of these to my garden in the near future. My goal is to offer housing to Mason Bees near the pollinator’s garden. I’d also like to install a new birdhouse at the end opposite the bluebird box.
Dense shrubs can offer protection to birds and act as a feeding source if they produce berries or fruits. Rocks, stones and bricks can give crawling bugs a place to hide. I have a couple of large stones and a brick path in my garden that bugs hang out under and during the day winged insects can sit on them to sun themselves.
Hopefully by doing these basic things you will attract a variety of pollinators to your space. The most expensive part of starting a pollinator’s garden or any garden for that matter is buying your plants. Adding the other basics can come later and don’t have to cost much if anything at all. Consider joining a plant swapping site on social media or taking advantage of end of season discounts at your local plant nursery. Your garden should not only be enjoyable to your new guests but to you also.