Bees are absolutely amazing, and there are so many excellent books about them for kids! Read on for some favorites to learn about the important job bees do, why we should be grateful to these pollinators, and what you can do in your own garden and community to help bees.
Honey bees are the busiest pollinators on the planet, and vitally important to our food supply. But they’re kind of accidental heroes.
See, bees aren’t really pollinating on purpose; they’re just doing their thing, gathering food for their colony. As bees buzz around looking for nectar, they collect flower pollen on their bodies and deposit it on other flowers, helping plants make fruit, reproduce and complete their lifecycle. It’s Mother Nature’s ultimate win-win.
Since human activity has a huge impact on bee colony health, we’ve got to do our part to keep the magic alive! Luckily, you can support bees and other pollinators while beautifying your neighborhood and community. Grab your gardening gloves, and let’s get to work!
Take Stock of Your Area
We love this incredibly fun and detailed “Bee a Friend to Pollinators” educational activity from our partners at The Bee Cause Project. This downloadable, illustrated lesson plan has everything you need to map your neighborhood, observe pollinator activity, and determine areas that might need the most help when supporting bees and other pollinators.
Get In the (Climate) Zone
You’ll have far more success if you cultivate plants that are suited to your particular climate zone, placed in the right part of your yard for optimal light, and watered according to the plant’s needs. You can find your climate zone from the National Gardening Association.
Start In Your Own Backyard
(Or front yard, or balcony, or window box…).
You don’t need a whole field to make a difference. Planting even a few flowering plants or shrubs can provide a welcoming spot for pollinators. Flowering plants can add beauty, brightness and a nectar source. Plant a variety of shapes and colors, with diverse bloom times, to attract pollinators all season long. Try planting flowers in large clusters to create a one-stop shop for bees looking for nectar. This helps bees save energy and collect more nectar per trip.
For the ultimate hands-off approach, make part of your yard a “bee meadow” and don’t mow! Flowering “weeds” like dandelion and clover provide an important nectar source for bees. No yard? No problem. Try starting with small potted flowers or herbs on your porch or balcony.
Native trees, shrubs, vines and flowering plants can do more than beautify your yard and neighborhood. They’re an important nectar source for bees, birds, butterflies and other pollinators, and create a beautiful habitat for local wildlife.
Be aware of invasive species, which can proliferate and crowd out native plants and upset the balance of your area’s ecosystem. Just because a plant looks beautiful, doesn’t mean it’s a great fit for where you live. Contact your local university or garden shop if you have questions. Or catch a neighbor when they’re out weeding their flower beds — gardeners love to swap tips!
Have a Wild Fling
We’re not talking about updating your dating profile. Seed flings are a fun way to bring life to abandoned lots, or as gifts to friends for them to fling into their own yards. These DIY clay, soil and seed balls are a great way to get your hands dirty this summer. Check out our instructions on how to make them, and have fun crafting a variety of flower and veggie seed flings!
Help a Heckstrip.
No, they’re not really called that. The popular name for the bit of lawn between the sidewalk and the road rhymes with “yell-strip.” Coined by master garden designer Lauren Springer Ogden and popularized by author Evelyn Hadden, it gets its name for often being a hot, dusty, forsaken gardening zone. But lots of plants can actually thrive there with less maintenance than lawn grasses, and give your street a beauty boost and pollinators an extra place to safely land and eat. This area is often part of public right-of-way, so be sure to check in with your municipal ordinances before doing any planting. You’ll want to choose plants that are under three feet tall so you don’t block traffic sightlines. And choose varieties that don’t need a ton of water and can withstand reflected heat from asphalt. Sedum, phlox and yarrow are beautiful choices for most climate zones.
Set Up a Roadside Attraction
Check with your local department of transportation to find out if there are any beautification or cleanup programs where you can get involved. Many state DOTs have wildflower planting programs and may even send you seeds to scatter from your car window!
Volunteer and Visit!
If you have a local school with a learning garden, chances are they could use some volunteers! Ask if you can help weed, water or supply seeds or tools to keep these wonderful educational spaces thriving. Same goes for any community gardens. If you live near a green space, park or urban farm, you can bet they need some extra hands. Be sure to visit your local parks, gardens and arboretums to support places that support pollinators. Remember: visitors help justify funding, so it’s important to take advantage of any local spots you have to keep them open.
Your neighbors and our pollinators will appreciate your efforts!
Elizabeth Beal is a writer from North Carolina with a lifelong passion for digging in the yard and experimenting in the kitchen. She shares her love of the natural world (and cucumber sandwiches) with her two young children.