The more diverse your landscape is, the greater the odds are that you will lure insects into the garden. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

The more diverse your landscape is, the greater the odds are that you will lure insects into the garden. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

The four simple ways you too can ‘bee’ a pollinator gardener

In addition to bees, our wasps and flies, moths and butterflies, hummingbirds and bats will thank you.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you should be aware by now of the importance of bees — and insects in general, for that matter — on our ecosystem. They are our chief pollinators, along with wasps and flies, some moths and butterflies, and even hummingbirds and bats.

In the early season, one can observe our native mason bees and bumble bees working over early-blooming shrubs, bulbs and perennials and, later in the year, the honey bees are the dominate species in the garden.

There are several things that home gardeners can do to encourage bees and other insects to come into their yard. Here are some things to consider:

Plant bloomers year-round. First and foremost, the more diverse our landscapes are, the greater the odds are that we will lure insects into the garden. It goes without saying that the vast majority of bugs are beneficial, not to mention that they are a source of food for the birds. Unless you are highly allergic to bee stings, you should not be concerned with a few insects marauding about the garden and having something in bloom year-round is the easiest way to make sure they will come visit.

The way to accomplish this is to simply visit the garden center once a month and buy something that is in bloom. It could be a shrub, tree, perennial or annual — it really doesn’t matter to the bugs — take it home and arrange it in a logical and aesthetically pleasing manner within your landscape. In a few short years, you will have a lovely garden that will bring both you and the bugs many happy hours of enjoyment.

Keep a bee lawn. If you are running out of room for trees and shrubs, have a “bee lawn.” It’s a relatively new craze where you take a boring grass lawn and convert it into a meadow of multiple species of flowering ground covers — like clover, self-heal and creeping thyme.

Depending on the seed mix, you could be mowing your lawn anywhere from as little as three to four times a year to possibly even only once, the whole time drawing in pollinators from all around the neighborhood. This is an intriguing concept that our own Washington State Department of Agriculture is working on, and we should see more information available about it later in the year.

Manage an insect hotel. “Insect hotels” are a fad that I observed at least 10 years ago while touring in Germany. In many of the public gardens I saw, these strange structures that were filled with tubes, cones, bark and general yard debris — all arranged in an artful manner and housed in a dollhouse-like structure. Not only were they interesting to look at, they were a magnet for attracting bugs.

Fast-forward 10 years, and now gardeners can purchase smaller versions of these “hotels” at their local garden centers, take them home and simply mount them on an east-facing wall, where the morning sun will warm them up. If you have kids, this is a great way to introduce them to the world of insects.

Add a mason bee house. Finally, on to mason bees. They are native, solitary and rarely sting, making them easy for home gardeners to incorporate into their gardens. You can purchase mason bee cocoons from your local garden center this month and start to get them established in your yard. Adding a mason bee house will make it easier for them to take up residence in your yard and, before you know it, you will be the “bees knees” for these little guys.

Becoming a pollinator gardener can not only be lots of fun, but it can be hugely beneficial and necessary for the pollination of our fruits and vegetables. Consider becoming part of the solution to the declining populations of bees by taking some of these relatively easy steps — you will be glad you did.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at info@sunnysidenursery.net.

Talk to us

More in Life

Rich Davis works on finishing the deck of his home in Mukilteo on June 11. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Mukilteo man’s pandemic project: A 500-square-foot deck

Rich Davis had never built anything before, but the shutdown left him with ample time to learn a new skill.

It only takes a small amount of cash to build a homemade swamp cooler to make your home comfortable this summer. (Jennifer Bardsley)
Can a do-it-yourself swamp cooler beat the August heat?

Instead of spending $400 for an air conditioner, purchase $25 of simple parts and assemble one yourself.

Oslo’s City Hall, with stirring murals and art that depict Norway’s history. (Rick Steves, Rick Steves’ Europe)
Rick Steves on Oslo, the polar opposite of ‘Big Box’ culture

The Norwegian capital city is expensive, but its charm and civility are priceless.

Also known as Rose of Sharon, hibiscus is a hardy shrub is one of the few that blooms in the late summer. (Nicole Phillips)
Hibiscus will bring a tropical look to your August garden

Also known as Rose of Sharon, the hardy shrub is one of the few that blooms in the late summer.

Dave Dodge stands on a speaker while playing his guitar during Nite Wave’s show at Tony V’s Garage on Saturday, June 8, 2019 in Everett, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Curtain falls on Tony V’s in Everett — at least for now

The nightspot was hit hard by the coronavirus epidemic. It might reopen when the county hits Phase 4 of the state reopening plan.

Lennon Wiltbank’s art adorns an abandoned, soon-to-be-demolished home and spreads joy in her neighborhood.
For this Bothell artist, ‘happiness is flowers’

Lennon Wiltbank’s art adorns an abandoned, soon-to-be-demolished home and spreads joy in her neighborhood.

Glacier Lanes won’t be spared: Owners decide to close forever

Bowlers statewide are rallying to open venues shut by COVID rules, but this Everett business isn’t waiting.

Practice the art of doing nothing to nurture inner peace

It’s the ability to sit, listen to the sounds of nature, look at nothing in particular, and just be.

The Sauk River rushes by near a popular boat launch area close to White Chuck Mountain off the Mountain Loop Highway, just outside of Darrington. (Daniella Beccaria / Herald file)
Outdoors classes and activities around Snohomish County

Some of the events listed here are contingent on whether each jurisdiction… Continue reading

Most Read