Homeowner’s Guide to a Bee-Friendly Backyard and Garden

, Feb 21, 2022

Extreme close-up of a honey bee carrying pollen bags on its legs, eating nectar atop a dandelion flower.

Bees are one of the top pollinators of our environment. Without pollinators, the way that we produce our food, grow plants, and even our air quality is seriously diminished. Recent global risk factors for pollinators, including the destruction of natural habitats for bees, have been decreasing their numbers. Because of their importance to our ecosystem  —  80% of all flowering plants are pollinated by bees, including fruits and vegetables, according to the USDA — many people have taken up “save the bees” as both a lifestyle and a social campaign.

This guide will provide you with tips on how to make your outdoor space bee-friendly, and the several benefits of doing so. Additionally, if you don’t have an outdoor space to speak of, this guide will provide tips for how you can support bee conservation in other ways.

Planting for Bees

There are certain plants you can grow in your yard and garden that will attract local bees, and increase pollination. Different plants will attract different types of bees, so you may keep this in mind while planting your garden. Honeybees, for example, will be drawn to nectar-producing plants, while mason bees, who don’t make honey but are still essential for pollination, will be more attracted to bright-colored flowers.

These plants can also provide other benefits to your local environment, as well as the look of your property. When planting for pollinators, it’s important to be aware of the needs of different plants, and whether or not they are compatible with your local environment.

Native Plants

There are many benefits to using native plants in your yard and garden, and attracting local bees is one of them. These plants tend to be well-acclimated to your specific climate and soil type, need little if any supplemental fertilizer, and are often resistant to most diseases and pests in your area. Using native plants for your landscaping is also environmentally conscious, as they often require less water from irrigation, use fewer pesticides, and enrich the soil that they’re planted in, benefitting other plants around them.

When buying a new home, you may ask your realtor or the current home owner what kind of native plants are in your area, or if they grow native plants on the property. You can also use the National Wildlife Foundation’s Native Plant Finder tool to help you understand which plants are native to your area. It’s important to note that different types of property, such as waterfront property, may have more than one soil type on the property that can support several different kinds of native plants.

Host Plants and Nectar Plants

Pollinators rely on plants for food and shelter, some more than others. Host plants and plants that produce nectar are incredibly important for attracting and sustaining pollinators in your local area. Good host and nectar plants for pollinators include:

  • Milkweed;
  • Willow;
  • Lilac;
  • Wisteria;
  • Mint;
  • Pipevine;
  • Pawpaw;
  • Honeysuckle;
  • Wild buckwheat;
  • Violets;

You can plant certain combinations of these plants to attract specific pollinator species, like butterflies, or a general variety if you don’t have a preference. Doing so can help increase the biodiversity of your garden, as well as the natural aesthetic.

Trees and Shrubs

Trees and shrubs are another good way to support local pollinators, and increase the quality of your landscape. Trees help increase air quality, as well as provide shade that helps cool your space.

  • Fruit trees;
  • Dogwood;
  • Tulip trees;
  • Sourwood;
  • Catalpa;
  • Lindens;

Be sure to research the size of these trees before planting, to make sure you have the proper space for them to thrive, as some of these tree species can get up to 70 feet.

Landscaping for Bees

Man-made landscaping features, such as fountains and ponds can help support local pollinators. Purposeful landscaping can also help increase the value of your home, giving it extra curb appeal and potentially making it easier when you are ready to sell. These landscaping features can range from simple, low-commitment, to larger projects, depending on your budget, space, and design preferences.

Water Fixtures

Water fixtures are often a popular part of intentional landscaping. Fountains and waterfalls and other moving water can provide drinking water to local pollinators and wildlife, when properly cared for. If you’re installing a water feature as a way to support local insect and animal life, you’ll want to be careful how you treat the water.

Stagnant water can attract unwanted insects, like mosquitoes, and can be breeding grounds for bacteria. You’ll want to avoid cleaning your water fixtures with harsh chemicals, and instead, use more natural treatments.

Bee Hotels and Bee Baths

Bee hotels and bee baths are man-made additions to your garden that can support your bee population. These may come in handy if your local environment doesn’t support host plants, or you’re looking for lower-maintenance pollinator support options. It’s important to note that bee hotels are more suited to social bee species, without a queen, like the mason bee. These bees tend to be more solitary, and because they don’t produce honey, they don’t need a complex hive structure.

You can usually purchase bee hotels and bee baths at your local garden or hardware store. You can also look for DIY bee hotel resources online, which can be a great craft to involve young children in.

Maintenance and Pest Management

Besides habitat loss, chemical pesticides are one of the leading threats to pollinators on a global scale. These pesticides remove or diminish floral resources that pollinators rely on. They can also disrupt bees’ navigational abilities and spatial recognition, by changing how they perceive plants. A big part of bee-friendly gardening, and sustainable gardening as a whole, is using holistic, natural pest management and maintenance solutions. Doing so causes the least disruption to your yard’s ecosystem.

Pesticide Alternatives

Pests can destroy your plants, and if left unchecked, may become an infestation. Natural pesticides are a good alternative to chemical pesticides. They help prevent infestations without causing harm to positive insects, like pollinators. Alternatives to chemical pesticides include:

  • Garlic;
  • Onion;
  • Salt sprays;
  • Citrus peels and oils;
  • Neem oil.

These can still cause harm to bees, even though they are natural, if they’re severely concentrated. Make sure to use them outside of peak foraging hours to reduce any potential damage. And remember, whatever pest treatments you use will not only affect your space, but can affect your neighbors’ space as well. Make sure you’re not using any treatments that could be harmful to your neighbors’ plants or animals. Remember, native plants are more likely to be resistant to pests and certain plant diseases.

Backyard Beekeeping

If you find yourself passionate about bees, backyard beekeeping might be a great option. This is a rewarding hobby that can support your local pollinators while reaping delicious rewards, such as fresh honey. Beekeeping is a somewhat complicated hobby, because of the delicate life cycle of bees. Some of the basics of beekeeping include:

  • Preparing a location: Before you can start beekeeping, you’ll need to prepare a location. When choosing the location for your future hive, you’ll want to make sure that the hive is far enough away from daily human activity, so that you don’t disturb the bees, and vice versa.
  • Installing bees: Next step is installing the bees. Once you have your bee box purchased, you may want to call a professional to move a swarm in, particularly if this is your first time beekeeping. It might take a few days for the bees to get accustomed to their new space, so give them plenty of room.
  • Feeding and bee care: Once your bees are installed, then you can focus on nurturing and supporting your hive. Bees eat nectar, which the plants we’ve listed above will produce naturally in your yard. Overripe fruit and sugar water may also be good food sources for bees. You’ll want to have a fresh water source nearby for both drinking and cooling down on hot days.
  • Checking for pests and disease: Another integral part of beekeeping is maintaining healthy conditions for the hive. Ants, mites, moths, and small rodents may all pose threats to beehives, so you’ll want to keep these pests at bay with natural pest prevention, mentioned above. You’ll also want to be on the lookout
    for signs of disease or parasites in your hive.

Many backyard beekeepers can be self-sufficient in the nurturing and care of their hives. However, depending on the conditions of your hive and the resources at your disposal, you may have to call in a rehabilitation specialist.

Bee Removal and Rehabilitation Services

While beekeeping or creating bee-friendly landscaping, you may find that you are attracting too many bees at once. In some cases, backyards may be temporary homes to whole swarms, which can include up to 60,000 bees if left unchecked. Swarms are a natural part of a hive life cycle, and the bees will likely move on their own, due to natural migratory patterns.

However, if you need the swarm removed, do not attempt to do so by yourself. You will likely kill, harm, or anger the bees and create more problems. Instead, look up your local beekeeping organizations, or ask around for assistance. They will have the proper tools and resources to remove a swarm safely, causing minimal damage to the swarm.

Other Ways To Help the Bees and Natural Pollinators

If you don’t have the resources, time, or desire to tailor your landscaping to support local pollinators  —  such as if you’re renting an apartment  —  there are other ways that you can help the conservation efforts of bees and local pollinators. These include:

  • Volunteer at your local beekeeping association: This is one of the most direct ways to help support your local bee population without a backyard space. This also is an avenue you can take to get into beekeeping, before committing to keeping your own.
  • Become a citizen scientist: Citizen scientists are members of the general public who work with professional scientific organizations collecting data. You can support the bees by volunteering to participate in pollinator studies, and providing data. Becoming a citizen scientist is a great way to get involved with other sustainability and environmental efforts in your area.
  • Donate to conservation efforts: Donating to pollination conversation efforts is another way you can directly support pollinators. Several organizations accept direct donations, or sell merchandise benefitting their efforts.
  • Buy honey from local suppliers: Buying local honey and beeswax products can benefit your local pollinators as well. This helps support local pollinators specifically by helping provide farms with the funds they need to keep creating. You may even be able to volunteer at local honey farms, to see how the bees are kept and cultivated.
  • Join a community garden: Joining your community garden is a great way to plant crops and flowers that support local pollinators, as well as engage in sustainable food production. Joining a community garden can also help connect you to your neighbors, and give you a rewarding hobby.

Additional Resources

Below, you’ll find additional resources for how to support bee conservation, as well as further reading on the state of beekeeping, conversation, and other pertinent news.

  • The Bee Conservancy: The bee conservancy is one of the oldest bee conservation societies, having been founded in 2009. They are dedicated to the conservation and continuation of bees, offering educational opportunities, hive sponsorships, and more.
  • The Xerces Society: The Xerces Society is dedicated to protecting invertebrate species, including noted pollinators like bees, butterflies, moths, and more. They offer volunteer opportunities, educational resources, and fund community science projects related to invertebrate conservation.
  • The Bumblebee Conservation Trust: This U.K.-based conservatory is dedicated to preserving the bees in the United Kingdom. Even if you live outside the U.K., the bumblebee conservation trust offers educational resources for both adults and children, as well as original science and research related to pollinators.
  • American Beekeeping Federation: The American Beekeeping Federation is a group for both professional and hobbyist beekeepers. They offer several educational programs for members, as well as a directory of state-by-state beekeeping organizations. By joining this federation, you can connect to other beekeepers, and learn more about the craft of beekeeping.

Pollinators are responsible for one in three bites of food, according to the Bee Conservancy. This helps illustrate the monumental role they play in our society, and the reason we should work toward supporting our local pollinators. With little effort, you can help increase food security across the world by helping protect pollinator species, like bees.

 

Categories Other
About the Author

Last updated: 03/09/2022

2300+ Client reviews!

Simon Vand was so helpful in showing me (first time home buyer) exactly what I could expect during every step of the process, answering all of my questions, and finding me the perfect home very quickly. I love the neighborhood I’m in and my house is perfect for me. Definitely recommend working with Simon!

Haval is DA MAN! He has been very helpful in assisting my wife and I in selling our 2 homes. He will also help us sell our primary home later this year. We will also use his services to help us look into buying our retirement home. We would use no one else.

This is my 6th transaction with Haval. This one, in particular, carried very unique
circumstances, and Haval supported me throughout the transition. Not to mention, this
came with a difficult banking experience towards the end, and Haval was quick to step in
to find solutions/resolutions. I wouldn’t use any other agent for my real estate needs.

Haval went above and beyond. Great experience having him next to me the whole time, great
follow-up and updates. A very high asset to your team. I will make sure I spread the word out for
his continuous success.

Haval was great! Haval is like family, always there when you need him. If ever I should need
real estate help, he will be the one and only one I will go to. That includes family. Thanks, Mr.
Haval for your help.

We are so thankful to have been referred to Haval Abbas from a family friend. We relocated from
another state and from the moment we first spoke with him we knew he was the perfect person to help
us through this big life-changing decision. He is extremely knowledgeable, honest, and has an attention
to detail that is so important when making such a big purchase. This summer the market was very much
not in the favor of buyers like us, but with his calm guidance and excellent negotiation skills, we were
able to find a beautiful home in the neighborhood that we love. He really listened to us & got what was
important for our family. He goes above and beyond & even helped us secure a rental when we first
moved out here and continues to help us with finding vendors and anything else we need. He's now
become a friend and someone we would highly recommend to anyone we know.

Jean was so great to work with! She was very responsive and always went the extra mile to make sure all of our questions were answered. She made selling our home fast and easy and I can’t wait to work with her again in our future home searches!

Tammy helped my family find a great first home.. we would highly recommend letting her help you

If you’re looking for a good realtor in Austin or surroundings, call Elizabeth. Buying a house with her was easy breezy. Found a house and closed in 30 days. She’s to the point, doesn’t waste your time, and gets the job done. What more do you want? Thanks!

Danny’s communication, availability, and the ability to come up with active solutions is second to none. Danny was extremely helpful in countless situations; whether it was educating us on the buying process, the market, how contracts work, and everything in between (we were first time home buyers so we had A LOT of questions), Danny was always there to explain things to us in a way that made sense – even when we asked the same question multiple times. 🙂 He never made us feel like he was just trying to get us to buy anything and wasn’t afraid to give his opinion on homes when we asked for his advice based on what he had learned about our likes/dislikes and wants vs. needs. Oh, and let’s not forget Danny had to deal with the difficult seller after his agent refused to answer his or Danny’s calls at the end of the process. Shame on her indeed…but that didn’t phase Danny. I mean, the guy drove to the comptrollers office at 8am in the morning to update the seller’s LLC with little to no help from the other side. If that doesn’t speak to his professionalism, dedication, empathy, and loyalty I don’t know what does.

We hired Sarah Spacek to represent us on a home purchase last fall. She was diligent, knowledgeable, and kept a much closer eye on the necessary improvements and conditions of the new home than we would have.

Once we moved into our new home, we hired Sarah Spacek to represent us in sale of our old home. Her attentiveness, advice to make the house desirable, and oversight of the contractor, made the listing and sale much easier than expected. Yes, for either purchase or sale in North Austin, I would not hesitate to contact Sarah to represent us and help us out.

This most recent transaction is the second time we have asked Jackie Ogier to help us sell a home. She is true professional with a proven track record of selling homes quickly and for top dollar, all while making the process as manageable as possible. She is highly organized and advised us of all the things we needed to do to get our home ready to sell – from references for digital photography to inspectors and handymen. I appreciate her candor and honesty and always felt like she had OUR best interests in mind. You should definitely consider consulting her if you are considering buying or selling real estate in Austin.

Click Here to Read All Reviews