Documents: Hot Horticulture Issues:

Quick & Easy Tips to Make Your Outdoor

Space a Gourmet Haven for Bees and Butterflies
by National Garden Bureau
November 19, 2013

You can make a difference!

Since 2006 we have heard about the unfortunate loss of honey bee colonies in North America and elsewhere. The decline in the number of bees is both shocking and frightening and blamed on a number of causes. We at National Garden Bureau are not here to duplicate the information that a broad range of researchers and media sources have presented as causes but instead, we want to emphasize that every single reader of this newsletter can make a difference. Even if you plant just one more container of flowers than you have in previous years, you can help!

Additionally, as of late we've seen a lot of Facebook and Twitter chatter about the lack of Monarch butterflies this past summer. Anyone can implement a few minor changes to make their outdoor spaces more welcoming for both bees and butterflies. Even using just one of these ideas can be beneficial so don't be intimidated thinking you can't do all we've listed. As is often said, one small step can make a difference.

Ways you can help the bees:

• Plant flowers with open petals and upright stamens for easy access by our pollen-loving friends (cosmos, coneflowers).

• Choose flowers that are heavy pollen producers (penstemon, salvia).

• Some herbs provide food for insects as well as humans so add them to your garden also (oregano).

• Limit or eliminate pesticide usage.

• Plant cover crops and use compost rather than relying on synthetic fertilizers.

• Make sure your garden blooms from very early spring (crocus--plant some now!) to late fall (asters) to provide food as long as possible.

• If you have open spaces like fields, road sides, etc. plant with native wildflower mixes.

• Provide shelter from the elements such as standing grasses, flower stalks, shrubs, etc.

• For bees, provide nesting spots, for example, open ground without mulch for ground-nesters or make artificial nests using instructions found here.

• Not all weeds need to be eradicated; see if the bees and butterflies are enjoying the buffet they offer and if they are, leave them be!

Ways you can help the butterflies:

• Provide host plants such as milkweed for emerging Monarch caterpillars.

• Host plants for other butterflies can be found here. And host plants WILL be munched on so don't be alarmed when you see nibbled leaves!

• Butterflies love butterfly weed, buddleia, coneflower (Echinacea), aster and marigold.

• Choose flowers that have easy access points for nectar sipping (phlox, gaillardia, pentas).

• Same as for bees, herbs provide food for butterflies so add them to your garden also (fennel, parsley).

• Plant a variety of sun-loving annuals, perennials, wildflowers and shrubs as butterflies prefer sunny spots.

• In that same vein, include a wide range of flower colors as well.

• Provide sheltered resting spaces such as a flat rock in a sunny spot.

• Butterflies sip water so provide a shallow tray with damp sand and rocks to land on.

• Did we mention planting host plants, such as milkweed?

• Encourage neighbors and your community to plant open spaces with low-maintenance native wildflowers and perennials.

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