Photo: How messy yards help bees

Place found materials — twigs, plant stalks and old sunflower heads — inside a reclaimed or repurposed box in your garden. (Credit: Garry Knight via Flickr)

Protecting pollinators means not using harmful pesticides. It also means providing welcoming habitat, even in your own backyard. And that's easier than you think!

Be a bee hugger

You can make your backyard a bee sanctuary. (Kids can help!) The secret? Keep it untidy! Chances are you're already doing at least one of these:

  1. 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!
  2. Collect twigs, bundle them up and leave them outside for bee nesting habitat.
  3. Leave a patch of ground bare. About 70 per cent of Canada's native bees nest underground.

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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. You're providing a home for important pollinators! And don't spread mulch — it covers up their burrows.

Build a bug hotel

Bug or insect hotels attract insects that pollinate or act as natural pest control. They also provide overwintering habitat.

  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 centimeter (0.2 to 0.4 inches) in diameter.
  4. 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 and in this blog.

What else would you like to know about encouraging pollinators where you live?

Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green

August 15, 2016

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Mar 10, 2017
5:11 AM

My grandfather used to be a beekeeper and this article is somewhat reminiscent of my childhood days spent with him. I don’t think people realise how much life on Earth depends on this fascinating species — the bees, and that we wouldn’t be able to survive for too long if they become extinct one day.

Oliver @ Rubbish Waste

Feb 10, 2017
8:30 AM

One thing to keep in mind for a bee hotel is to renew the hotel materials. If you don’t look after your hotel, they may become filled with parasites and dead bees.

To be a good bee manager phase out bee blocks and canes, every third year:

In March, put all the discarded materials in a wooden box with a dime-sized hole as an escape-route for emerging bees. Leave the discarded materials until September to ensure all bees have left the building then add the nesting material to your compost bin.

[info from Victory Gardens for Bees by Lori Weidenhammer]

Judith, your property sounds lovely. A true ‘calico’ lawn.

Aug 16, 2016
1:20 PM

The bees and I share my “lawn” and garden. I have never had the money or inclination to spread weed and feed over my grass like my neighbour has a need to do. And over the years wild ground cover has taken over.Violets, dandelions, 3 kinds of clover and mallow(not my favourite).I make jelly and the bees use the rest for themselves. One season i planted sunflowers and the next year the sunflowers took over my garden. Seeds were spread by the birds during the fall and winter and I didn’t have the heart to pull up the seedlings in the Spring. Next year I’ll be a little more diligent, after all I would like some vegetables too. But I have no less than 3 bees on every blossom.

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