Learn different ways on how to attract bees to your garden.
We have a bee hive and my whole mindset was that if ‘I build it, they will come’. Who would have guessed that attracting honey bees to your garden is an artform. Learn about bee hives and how to attract bees into your neighborhood to create a bee friendly environment.
I set up a honey bee box over two years ago and it was feeling a little neglected these days. I didn’t actually ‘build’ my own bee box. Instead, I got the beehive for our backyard from my dad. It was in storage for numerous years so after giving it a fresh coat of paint, I set it up in an area that felt safe.
The word safe here is in reference to the bees location to our house. As much as I like the thought of these little guys being around, I really didn’t want them too close to our house and they needed a nearby source for water.
With an open area in our wooded lot all picked out it looked picture perfect. Then it rained.
Rain might just be the understatement. It was more like a monsoon, and it proceeded to flood the whole wooded lot. From our vantage point on our deck, it looked like we had unknowingly acquired lake shore property. After a few days, the water finally receded, and things went back to normal.
A casual stroll out to our Langstroth beehive found that the whole bee box had been swept away by the flooding. Thankfully I was able to find all the different parts as they were scattered throughout the woods. I cleaned it all up and placed the bee box back again. That is when I realized that I was going to have to be more proactive in protecting not just the beehive but also the bees themselves.
Nowhere to go with the bee box but up.
Taking a page out of the shoreline ‘houses on the coast’ playbook, I thought an elevated beehive would keep the bees out of harms way. There was a bee swarm just across the creek from us that was up very high, they were in a tree a long way from the ground.
If I could attract a bee swarm that might want to start their own empire, then everything would fall into place. I really didn’t want to spend money on buying bees since we already had a lot of bees in our backyard.
To secure my bee hive I purchased eight concrete blocks and used some iron rods to act as reinforcement and supports. Once stacked and situated I proceeded to fill the blocks with cement. This was two years ago; this thing hasn’t moved an inch. I’m quite proud of the fact that we have had another monsoon like rain, and it held up perfectly. My elevated bee hive is kept well above the water and it provides good ventilation!
Hey bees, look it’s Kool-Aid!
I made a bee feeder out of a large mason jar and started putting out a sugar water solution (minus the kool-aid powder) in an attempt to draw in any nearby bees. This would work well until the sugar water was all gone and then all the little bees would leave.
I kept trying. Maybe the bees would slowly start to feel more comfortable with their new bee-friendly environment and stick around. After feeding them consistently for a few weeks it started to look like they were making themselves at home. One day I saw a few honey bees crawling out the top of the bee box. Yes! I didn’t want to scare them off so I would come up just short of a few yards, observe their activity and then leave.
Photo courtesy of the Carolina Bee Keepers Association
When all else fails, read a book on how to attract bees.
Short of going out and actually purchasing bees, not that easy to do and a whole other blog post, I fell back to reaching out for some advice in books. There were some things that contradicted each other and some that really made no sense at all.
This reminded me of the ‘Bee’ meetings that we used to attend at our local county extension office. We heard the following statement more then once.
“If you want to find 10 different ways to do something with your bees, just ask 10 different beekeepers. Each one will give you different advice on the same topic.”
I looked for some similarities from various bee sources and these were the steps that they all seemed to agree upon. Maybe just worded differently.
- Attract a scout Bee with an old Brood comb.
The mindset is that bees can visualize the potential of a location if you stage their house. The darker the honey comb, the more interest the scout will have.
- Create the Smells of Home with oil.
Trying a variation of different scented oils might help get the future residents (via their scout) in the mood for seeing the beehive as a potential living space. I have tried using Lavender and Lemongrass essential oils. These oils are very fragrant, so you really don’t need a lot to make your hive stand out.
A few drops of essential oil will help sell your real estate (beehive) and just maybe get some long-term residents.
Flowering Plants for Pollinators
Honey bees are attracted to native plants and wildflowers. Bees will flourish where the pollen is plentiful, and you can accommodate their preferences for color and shape.
Flowers that are purple, white, blue, or yellow are colors that bees desire the most.
Plants such as Marigolds, Goldenrod, and Black-eyed Susan’s will give your garden a nice pop of color and they serve the needs of the bees. Herbs will also do the trick nicely, they include Rosemary, Sage, Chamomile, Beebalm and Thyme.
Natural pollen is by far the best way to attract bees.
A huge squash flower with a busy bees pollinating.
Your brand new ‘Chemical Free’ bee zone.
Pulling weeds rather than spraying for them wins the day here. No more pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides. I think that covers all of them. Either way, let nature take its course and everything else will fall into place. I’ve never been a big proponent of spraying chemicals in the first place, but there were certain bug sprays that I used around my exterior that would be harmful to these little pollinators. I use Ortho Home Defense Bug Shield around doors, windows and along the house like under the deck, but the rest of the yard stays toxic free.
Taking the bee hive to a whole new level. As I mentioned before, if you want to make your beehive more welcoming to honey bees, then you need to get it up off the ground. Not only will the bees feel more secure if they are elevated but it will make maintaining the hive easier for you. Our own bee hive on a stack of cinder blocks is up to a level where it is easy for me to work with the bees without getting a sore back.
This isn’t an extensive list on how to attract bees by any means, I’m sure there are more ideas to be added. If you have any tips or suggestions you would like to share, please leave us a comment below.
Have you attracted a swarm of honey bees to your backyard? We would like to hear how that worked out for you.
Be safe and stay buzzy!