Photo: The buzz on bee-friendly yards and balconies

(Credit: Evan Leeson via Flickr)

By Lindsay Coulter

Bees eat two things: nectar (loaded with sugar, it's their main source of energy) and pollen (for proteins and fats). Choose a variety of plants that flower at different times to make sure they always have a snack available. The general rule is that native plants attract native bees.

Bees also have good colour vision. It's one reason flowers are so showy! They especially like blue, purple, violet, white and yellow. Planting flowers of a single species in clumps just over a metre in diameter, instead of scattering them, ensures bees are more likely to find them.

Bee species have different tongue lengths, which means they're adapted to different flowers. A variety of flower shapes will benefit a diversity of bees.

These plants, organized by blooming time, are just a few native to Canada that attract bees:

Early: blueberry, cotoneaster, crab- apple, cranberry, crocus, foxglove, heliotrope, hazelnut, heather, primrose, willow

Mid-season: blackberry, cat mint, catnip, chives, dahlia, hyssop, lavender, raspberry, sunflower, yarrow

Late: aster (perennial), beggar's tricks, borage, coneflower, cornflower, cosmos, goldenrod, pumpkin, sedum, squash

Build a Bee Bath

Bees and other beneficial insects— ladybugs, butterflies and predatory wasps—all need fresh water to drink, but most can't land in a conventional bird bath without crashing. You can help:

Line a shallow bowl or plate with rocks. Add water, but leave the rocks as dry islands to serve as landing pads. Place the bath on the ground in your garden. Put it near "problem plants"—those that get aphids, for example—and the beneficial insects that come to drink will look after them. Refresh the water daily, adding just enough to evaporate by day's end to avoid creating a mosquito breeding ground.