Enhancing Habitat for Bees
There are simple and inexpensive things you can do to increase the number of native bees living on your land. Any work you do on behalf of pollinators will support other beneficial insects and wildlife. Below, you will find information on providing additional sources of food and shelter for native bees, additional practices you can adopt to enhance native bee habitat, and how to obtain financial support from government programs to do this work. You may also want to order or download our publication: Farming for Bees: Guidelines for Providing Native Bee Habitat on Farms.
To provide pollinators with a variety of flowering plants that bloom throughout the growing season, you can plant fallow fields, road edges and cover crops with clover or other inexpensive seed that will flower. Implementing hedgerows or windbreaks with a variety of plants that have overlapping flowering periods will provide food for bees throughout the growing season and strengthen populations of natural enemies of crop pests.
Native bees don’t build the wax or paper structures we associate with honey bees or wasps, but they do need places to nest, which vary depending on the species. Wood-nesting bees are solitary, often nesting in soft-pithed twigs or beetle tunnels in standing dead trees. Learn how to make nest-blocks for wood-nesting native bees and learn how to maintain these and other tunnel nests. Ground-nesting bees include solitary species that construct nest tunnels under bare ground. Cavity-nesting social species–bumble bees–make use of small spaces, such as abandoned rodent burrows, wherever they can find them.
When you create a pond or ditch, you can leave the pile of excavated soil. Ground-nesting bees may build nests in stable, bare areas of this mounded earth. Planting clumps of native flowers will attract more pollinators.
If you want to do more to increase the number of native bees pollinating your crops, you can set aside marginal areas and work with your neighbors to protect natural areas around your farm. Studies from California, Canada and New Jersey have all found that in certain crops, one-hundred percent of the pollination needs can be met if twenty-five to thirty percent of the landscape is left in natural habitat.