Home and Garden

Messy yards help bees

Mining bees

Have you noticed a line of little holes in your yard or lawn? You probably have ground-nesting bees.

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!

Photo: Joi Ito via Flickr

Collect twigs

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.

Photo: rawpixel via Unsplash

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.

Photo: Jeremy Gilbrech via Flickr

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.

Learn how to ID different kinds of bees!

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:

  1. Nest underground
  2. Nest at ground level
  3. 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.

Find more bumblebee house instructions, complete with “how to” images, from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Garden World.

Milk carton bug hotel

How to build a bug hotel

Bug or insect hotels attract species that pollinate or act as natural pest control. They also provide overwintering habitat. Three ideas:

  1. Place found materials — twigs, plant stalks and old sunflower heads — inside a reclaimed or repurposed box in your garden.
  2. Build your own birdhouse-sized insect real estate (and piece of art). Fill it with natural materials like bamboo poles, pencil-sized brown paper tubes, small stones, pine cones and twigs.
  3. Drill holes into an old log. Vary the size of the holes from half to one centimetre (0.2 to 0.4 inches) in diameter.

See complete DIY bug hotel instructions with images in Garden Made: A Year of Seasonal Projects to Beautify Your Garden and Your Life by Stephanie Rose or on this website.