Tag Archives: pollinators

How to Make a Bee House

Disclaimer: I’m participating in Hey, Let’s Grow!, a home gardening program sponsored by Monsanto. As part of this program, I was sent a free bee house kit. All opinions are my own.

I can tell you exactly how many times I have been stung by bees, as I’m sure you can if you’ve ever been stung. Bee stings hurt!

Usually when we think of bees, we think of the very social honeybees. They live in hives and will aggressively defend their hives. These bees, however, are not native to the United States. Settlers brought them over from Europe to help pollinate their crops, and they are indeed extremely useful to our agriculture even today.

Our native bees are mostly solitary bees and are much less aggressive. (Unless you actually step on one in the grass, and then the bee will sting! I’m speaking from experience.) I have watched bees buzzing around my garden many times and have never been stung. My mom used to tell me to leave the bees alone and they will leave you alone. She loved working in her flower garden and saw many bees buzzing around as well.

Bee in my pollinator garden

Bees and other pollinators are very important for our gardens and our natural world. It is very easy to make a bee house to encourage native bees to live by your garden! We made our house by using a bee house kit, but it is very easy to make one using supplies you may already have.

To make the house waterproof, we used a half-gallon milk carton. We cut off the top of our milk carton. We then made little tubes for our individual bees to lay eggs and care for their larvae.

My daughters and our neighbor work on making tubes from construction paper. We also used pre-made tubes.

The bright colors from the construction paper and the outside of the milk carton will hopefully attract bees, just as flowers attract bees with their bright colors. To make your own tubes, cut an 8″ x 11″ piece of construction paper in half. Roll it around a pencil, and tape securely, removing the pencil. Place your tubes into the milk carton. Make sure you have enough tubes for them to stay securely in the milk carton.

Tubes for individual bees
Bee house

We chose to left the outside of our house undecorated, since I didn’t have any contact paper to help with waterproofing the decorations. This was a good call; after an unusually dry June, the day after we hung up our bee house we had several thunderstorms and lots of rain! We hung our house in a lilac bush by my vegetable garden, and chose the branch carefully so that rain water would not be able to get into the bee tubes. I checked on our house after the rain and the tubes stayed dry! We haven’t had any bees move in yet, but I will keep checking!

For more information on how to make your own bee house, watch this video:

Build Your Own Bee House from Monsanto STEM Education Outreach on Vimeo.

Curious about one of my bee sting stories? Visit this blog post:

The Bumblebee Story

This document has some great information about our native bees!
https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5306468.pdf

Have fun making your own bee house!
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How to Grow a Pollinator Garden

If there is a buzzword for gardening, the word of the summer is “pollinators.” Gardeners are becoming concerned about the health of bees, butterflies and other pollinators, and are incorporating plants into their gardens to help these important pollinators. Whether you love veggie gardens or flower gardens, pollinators are what keeps gardens growing!

So exactly who are the pollinators? We all know about bees, of course! Butterflies are excellent pollinators as well. But did you know that moths, beetles, flies, hummingbirds and bats are also pollinators? I never thought about these pollinators until I began to plant my own pollinator garden. I’ve even read that mosquitoes can be pollinators, and with all the rain we’ve been getting, there are plenty of them in my yard. I just fed a couple when I went outside to take some pictures for this post!

I’ve been learning that it takes time to build a pollinator garden. A couple of years ago, we had a large, old willow tree cut down in our backyard. I’ve been using this new sunny space to build our garden. One of the first things I did was visit the “native plant” section of my local nursery. Those plants that I used to see growing in ditches next to farm fields are now much easier to find and are not considered weeds anymore! Black-eyed Susans and purple cone flowers are now deliberately planted in flower gardens to provide a natural setting for our pollinator friends.

The beginnings of my garden in the spring, 2014
The beginnings of my garden in the spring of 2014

Last spring, my plants were very small and vulnerable. The rabbit that lives under our bushes loved eating the new, green shoots, especially the leaves of my English aster! I was worried that all that nibbling would kill my plants, but this spring most of them grew back bigger and stronger than ever.

I’ve been learning as I go along, and here’s what I’ve learned about growing a pollinator garden.

Use plants with a variety of colors and that bloom at different times of the growing season.

Different pollinators are drawn to different colors and scents, so a variety of plants will also draw a variety of pollinators. In early spring, my purple salvia bloomed profusely. Bumblebees love this flower!

bee on purple salvia
I took a picture of this buzzing bumblebee very carefully!

Now my orange butterfly weed is blooming, and it adds a nice pop to my garden. The purple cone flowers are just starting to bloom, but the English aster will bloom later this summer. When I first planted these flowers, I left plenty of room between them, and I’m glad I did! This year they are quite bushy and large.

butterfly weed
orange butterfly weed, one variety of milkweed

Remember the caterpillars!

Butterflies need places to lay eggs, and the caterpillars need leaves to eat. The butterfly weed pictured above is one kind of milkweed where monarch butterflies can lay their eggs.

Don’t use pesticides.

I’m also not going to use pesticides. Last summer, one of my plants was infested by white flies. All I did was spray the plant with a strong jet of water a few times, and the flies were eliminated. There are other friendly ways to take care of pests without removing the bugs you want to keep!

Have a source of water.

Right now, I have some natural water sources in my yard. The ground has been saturated during our wet and rainy June! I would like to get a birdbath for the hot summer months. The edges should be shallow and sloping for the pollinators to be able to get a drink without falling into the water.

Hummingbird attractors
Hummingbird attractors

To learn more about growing your own pollinator garden, Pollinator Partnership is a great resource. Some of my other City Mom friends are growing gardens with their eyes on pollinators. See how Natasha’s garden at Houseful Of Nicholes is growing food for her table. Katie is preparing for an abundance of zucchini from her garden, and has some great recipes at Three Little Birds and One Messy Nest!

Pollinator garden, summer of 2015
Pollinator garden, summer of 2015

I still have some work to do on my garden, but it’s coming along! Do you have a garden? What are you growing?

Field Mom Ambassador

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