There are about 20,000 known bee species worldwide, more than 800 native to Canada. Each is unique and pollinates different plants at different times. Did you know squash bees are the best for squash, pumpkins and gourds?
Protecting pollinators means not using harmful pesticides and providing welcoming habitat. Even a small pollinator garden will bring in many species, especially native bees. It’s easier than you think!
Be a bee hugger
Transform your yard into a pollinator paradise. (Kids can help!) The secret? Keep it untidy!
Let veggies bolt and flower
Besides being a great way to witness a plant’s full life cycle, you can sit back and watch pollinators at work!
Collect twigs, bundle them up and leave them outside for bee nesting habitat. Brush piles and dead or dying trees also make great homes for pollinators.
Leave a patch of ground bare
About 70 per cent of Canada’s native bees nest underground. Leave a patch of ground dry, uncultivated and unmulched.
Offer a source of water
Some pollinators also need muddy patches and stones to perch. All bees need a source of water with a perch.
Most bees are solitary and nest in the ground. Have you noticed a line of little holes in your yard or lawn, about six millimetres (1/4 inch) in diameter? You probably have ground-nesting bees.
Unlike honeybees, mining bees are solitary and don’t form large, socially organized nests. Their ideal nesting sites are exposed, well-drained soils with little vegetation. Mining bees are not aggressive and rarely, if ever, sting.
Forget about having a manicured lawn (it’s a desert for pollinators and most wildlife). Pay attention to where you spread heavy mulch — it can cover up burrows. Leave leaves for a butterfly nursery.
How to help bumblebees
There are three kinds of bumblebees, those that:
- Nest underground
- Nest at ground level
- Nest above ground
Besides pollinating wild plants and food plants like tomatoes and blueberries, bees that nest in the ground benefit your garden by:
- Improving soil quality
- Increasing water movement around plant roots
- Mixing up soil nutrients
How to spot a bumblebee nest
Most common species prefer dry, dark places. That’s why your yard is probably home to a few types of bumblebee nests — some can contain up to 400 bees!
- Underground species nest in abandoned mouse holes, under garden sheds and in compost heaps.
- Ground-dwelling bumblebees will also nest in a compost pile — some love the heat.
- Above ground bumblebees will take over any birdhouse that you didn’t clean out! They also make nests in thick grass and in tree cavities.
How to make a bumblebee nest
Fill a plastic plant pot about two-thirds full of dryer lint (for nesting material). Tip it upside down and place it at ground level, in a shady area. Place an old plate on top. The plate should weigh enough to hold it in place and leave the air holes in the pot open for ventilation.
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