Wild Bees Can Help Honey Bees—How Your Yard Can Support Them

Although farmers have come to rely on imported honey bees, wild pollinators are hardier.
Native Bees.jpg

There are 4,000 native bee species in North America and they support natural ecosystems by keeping a healthy diversity among pollinators.

Photo by Brad Huchteman / Unsplash.

By now we’ve all heard that domesticated honeybee populations continue to decline, endangering our food systems. Although farmers have come to rely on imported species of domesticated honeybees, hardier wild bees do some of the work, too. There are 4,000 native bee species in North America. They support natural ecosystems by keeping a healthy diversity among pollinators. But even they are facing threats. Here’s how to be a backyard beekeeper for wild bees.

Regions most at risk for native bee loss

 

Including native plants in your garden and yard will help provide habitat and sustenance for bees year round. By researching which native plants are most helpful to bees, you can plan a garden that is beneficial to their seasonal needs.

 

REGION 1

Local Species:

Miner Bees

Active Season:

June–July

Select Plant Food:

Mariposa Lily

Status:

Rare, Uncertain

Nesting:

Underground

 

REGION 2

Local Species:

Western Bumble Bee

Active Season:

April–September

Select Plant Food:

Rubber Rabbit Brush

Status:

Rare, In decline

Nesting:

Cavities

 

REGION 3

Local Species:

Sonoran Bumble Bee

Active Season:

June, September–October

Select Plant Food:

Goldeneye

Status:

Uncommon

Nesting:

Cavities

 

REGION 4

Local Species:

Eastern Carpenter Bee

Active Season:

April–October

Select Plant Food:

Lupine

Status:

Secure

Nesting:

Wood

 

 

REGION 5

Local Species:

Bicolored Sweat Bee

Active Season:

April–October

Select Plant Food:

Sunflower

Status:

Secure

Nesting:

Underground

 

Don’t forget:

Create sites for nesting

Seventy percent of native bee species nest in the ground. Clear patches of bare ground or create small sand pits for bees to nest in. Other species of bees nest in the beetle-bored cavities of dead wood. Leave pieces of dry wood in sunny places and drill small holes if there are no existing cavities.

Avoid pesticides

Most insecticides and some fungicides and herbicides are harmful or lethal to bees. Be careful when purchasing seeds and bulbs. Many are grown with systemic pesticides called neonicotinoids, which will remain in the pollen of the plant and harms all bees.