- Why Make Yours A Bee Garden?
types of bees do you see in your garden? At first glance you may
observe some honeybees ducking in and out of flowers, perhaps a
bumblebee or two. Did you know that there are actually 81 known
species of bees in urban Berkeley alone? Take a better look; you
may see bright green bees, small black bees, striped and fuzzy bees.
These busy little creatures are responsible for pollinating a large
variety of fruits, flowers, and vegetables. They are an important
and vital part of our ecosystem.
Our lab at UC Berkeley observes native bees and
their favorite flowers. Native bees are different from the honeybee
you are familiar with. They do not live in hives and do not produce
honey but they have equally important roles in gardens and natural
ecosystems. We created this website to familiarize you with the
diversity of native bees in urban areas, their habits, and to instruct
you on how to create bee-friendly gardens.
Want a quick jump-start into bee gardening? Have
a look at our new comprehensive Seasonal Recommended
Bee Plants lists. Everything you need to start gardening - all in one place!
Bees: The World's
thousands of years, humans have known the value of bees in agriculture.
As the most effective pollinators in the world, bees are an invaluable
resource to ag productivity. Anybody who’s driven past an
orchard has seen the dozens of white wooden boxes containing
the farmer’s most valuable tool. Though we’ve known
the power of bees in our agriculture for centuries, we are just
beginning to realize their power in our humble residential gardens.
Just as they are used to dramatically increase fruit and vegetable
production, these seemingly insignificant little creatures can be
used to dramatically bolster the health and productivity of your
home garden. You need only do a few simple things to enlist the
help of bees in your pursuit of a more beautiful and healthy garden;
This website was created to let you in on these simple secrets.
Creating A Great
are many factors that make a garden attractive to bees other than
the flowers it contains. Our research has shown that bees
are more strongly attracted to gardens with a greater diversity
of bee-friendly flowers. In addition, simple things like the layout
and light exposure of your garden can have a huge effect on the
number and variety of bees it attracts. Continue on to learn more
about the non-planting-related things you can do to make your garden
a veritable bee Mecca.
Mulch Madness, One More Deterrent To Beeing Successful
You happen to be one of the many ground-nesting bees that looks for garden sites for digging small tunnels where you will lay your eggs in individually-made brood cells that you will provision with pollen and some nectar. But something has happened in recent years to those favored bare dirt sites that makes your task much harder and oftentimes impossible. MULCH MADNESS has arrived and has become a highly promoted “eco-friendly” method for suppressing weeds, conserving water, and unknowingly discouraging ground-nesting bees! Read on to learn more...
Where Do Bees
Nest In the City?
envision the home of a bee, they most frequently think of a honeycomb
or a bee box, the likes of which we see in orchards around California.
However, unlike honey bees, most native California bees are non-social
in habit, meaning they make individual nests. Limited knowledge
exists about where these bees nest in urban environments, however,
three general nesting habits are known of solitary native bees:
The most common is the ground nesting habit, and probably 85% or
more of species build their nests in some type of soil. Another
nest type is the preexisting cavity, which can be found in dead
tree branches (for example, in old oak trees) or holes in human
structures of wood, metal, or masonry blocks. The third, more uncommon,
type is wood frames and paneling that large carpenter bees may use
to bore out holes for their nests - often to the great displeasure
of urbanites! To learn more about these types of nests, read on.
A Guide To
Closer Bee Observations
the exception of a few species such as the relatively slow-moving
honey bees or bumble bees, it can be quite difficult to observe
your garden visitors at close range while they're on the move. The
trick to getting a good look is slowing them down. It can be fun
and educational to examine bees up close, studying the fine details
of their bodies. If you want to give it a try, it's really quite
easy. All you'll need is a few simple pieces of equipment, a roomy
refrigerator, and a little patience. This can be a great activity
for science teachers or for summer camps. Click the link to read
a fully detailed set of instructions, plus a complete list of the
equipment you'll need.
Bees & "Weeds"
In Your Garden
tend to distinguish between the plants we put in our gardens
and those that show up univited. The latter we call "weeds."
Insects and other wild animals make no such distinction. From the
perspective of a bee, any plant that provides quality pollen and
nectar is attractive. For the short period they are in bloom, weeds
such as dandelions and white clover provide bees with good sources
of pollen and nectar. If your aim is to attract ample numbers of
bees to improve the health of your garden, you might consider leaving
those plants we consider intruders long enough for them to be useful
in attracting helpful bees. There is always plenty of time to remove
these weeds once their flowers are spent, but before they've gone
to seed. For more information about plants commonly considered to
be weeds, and their relationship to bees, read on.
Season Vs. Bee Season
plants have predictable flowering seasons such that we can expect
certain plants to bloom in Spring, Summer, and/or early Fall in
the San Francisco Bay Area. Many gardeners know this and plan their
gardening schedules around this predictable flowering information.
What many people don't know, is that urban bees also
have predictable flight/nesting seasons. For example, in the Spring
we can expect to see several bee groups that only are found during
early months. One of these groups is the bumble bee, which is very
common at this time, with some individuals lingering on in low numbers
into Summer. On the other hand large leaf cutter bees and fuzzy
anthophorid bees start to become common in Summer. One reason
many people aren't aware of bee seasons is that the highly visible
honey bees are found on urban flowers most of the year (assuming
the weather is favorable). Learning a what to look for and when
can dramatically improve your bee-watching experiences, all the
info you need is a click away.
on what your goals are, the use of California native or exotic plants
can be one of the most critical factors you will have to consider
when planning your garden. If your priority is a healthy garden,
it makes good ecological sense to consider your plants' bee-attractiveness,
rather than focusing exlusively on whether one hundred percent of
your plants are natives. Even if your priority is to have a native
garden, it can be highly advantageous to include even just a couple
exotic plants on the basis of their bee attractiveness. The bees
they attract will help your natives to thrive. Our Garden
Builder Tool is particularly useful for finding out which plants
(even if they are exotic themselves) will attract native bees that
will enjoy your native garden. We have evaluated many plants that
bees like and present these results in two ways. First, we have
one long list that contains
all of our bee-plant evaluations. Second, we give only our most
recommended plants in the Garden Builder Tool. These are the
easiest, most attractive plants to grow, in the shortest time period.
Both resources will provide you with plenty of options based on
your gardening goals. In our experimental gardens, we use
native California plants whenever possible in order to attract local
native California bees. Using our information, you should be able
to make your own informed decisions about native plants, and ensure
the best results possible for your garden.
The majority of native bees live a solitary lifestyle. After mating, female bees being the task of building and provisioning their nest. They make their nests by digging out sandy soils or by lining pre-existing cavities with leaves or flower petals. Once the nest cavity is complete the female bee will make multiple foraging trips, collecting pollen and some nectar. When enough of a food source has been collected she will lay a single egg and seal the chamber. The eggs are left to hatch and develop without any parental care. A female bee will make many nests in her lifetime, but will die before any of her offspring hatch.
there’s one big reason people might be reluctant to attract
bees to their gardens, it can probably be summed up in one word:
Ouch! We all have memories, as a child or as an adult, of getting
stung by a bee. It’s never a fond memory. As a result, understandably,
a lot of people are afraid of being stung again. However, there
are a lot of myths and unfounded fears surrounding bee stings. For
example, did you know that only female honeybees have stingers?
The people on our bee research team that have been
working with bees for decades, and none of us has ever once been
stung on the job! We have no secret pact with the bees, stinging
is simply not as common as many people think. We’ve included
here a lot of information about bees and stinging; when and why
they do it, and how to avoid it. With a little understanding to
ease your fear, the garden can be a much more friendly and enjoyable
place to be.