Friday, March 4, 2016


I emailed a friend the other day, thanking her for the bamboo that had come from her garden, and telling her how I was making a bee house.  She replied, "You are making a bee hive out of bamboo?" "No, a bee house for solitary bees" was my reply. Later she told me she thought all bees lived in hives. I'm going to pass on to her the book I am reading, The Bee-Friendly Garden, by Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn.

I really didn't know much about the different kind of bees myself, but I was aware that some bees make a nest in hollow tubes. I had already made a bee house several years ago and was thrilled when the hollow tubes were filled within weeks. A few of my friends have started bee keeping but that isn't what this book is about. There are far simpler ways for every gardener to provide a favorable home for bees.
With much media coverage on the decline in our bee population due to mite infections and overuse of toxic chemicals as well as unknown reasons it is up to us, the gardeners, to learn about how best we can help our bee populations.

First you need to learn something about the different kinds of bees and the first chapter of The Bee Friendly Garden is dedicated to identifying the more common types. Would you be surprised to learn that not all bees are honey bees and that honey bees are not native to America. The majority of our bees are solitary, meaning they do not live in a colony like honey bees, and there is plenty of information here to identify some of the more common types of solitary bee.  Not all plants are attractive to bees. Some are pollinated by moths, butterflies and flies. So what does attract the bee to a flower? Which flowers are our native bees attracted to? That is the subject of the following chapters moving on to a good garden design for attracting bees; desert, woodland, sun, shade, small and large. The diverse areas we garden in the US. The book is well illustrated with plenty of design examples.

If you have a garden that is grass, evergreen non-flowering shrubs and exotic species and would like to make the change to a garden friendly to the insects that support a healthy habitat then I  recommend this book. The bees want to come to your garden but you have to make your garden inviting to them. One of the things that I found disturbing was the results of a survey done in Berkeley, California of landscape plants, "Of 1000 landscape plants, only 128 had measurable visits, and only 50 plants(5percent) were natives." What could be a better indicator of why we need more natives in the garden. If this is the kind of garden you have then it's time to make some changes even if it is to plant some flowers in pots. Just make sure they are the right ones. And with so many people removing lawns and looking for alternative landscapes why not switch to a wildflower meadow. You will be doing the bees and yourselves a favor. And to make sure the bees are there the next year you can learn how to make a bee nesting box as well as provide a mulch free area for ground nesting bees.

Written by Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn and published by Ten Speed Press this book is beautifully illustrated and is a book which will inspire and guide you on your way to a bee-friendly garden. A bee-friendly garden is a healthy garden.

This book was sent to me for review.


  1. Although I can't say I'm well-educated in detecting the difference between bees, I suspect the majority of mine are of the solitary sort. I'm going to pick up the book to see what I can do to make sure my bees stay healthy and happy.

  2. Such an important cause and I agree - one we can, and should - all do our part to support. This book looks like a great way to get the right information that has been helpfully organized into one place. Good spot!

    Those figures from California are sadly unsurprising, but a real eye-opener as to how widespread the problems are. Two tricks I learned in the past few years are to plant natives en masse as pollinators prefer to feed on lots of one thing in bloom at a time, and to provide water that bees can safely and easily access. A few rocks in the bottom of a bird bath can help keep bees from getting swamped, and there are even bee saving floating orbs sold to help out in larger features.

    I imagine native and imported bees alike are smitten with your spaces. I hope you'll show more on your bee hotel project!

  3. Shocked to see those figures from California. I've had great success attracting bees to our garden with zinnias and will be sure to plant more of them this year. I'm going to pick up a copy of that book and see what else I can do for the bees in our area.

  4. One of the most urgent problems we have is that we are killing off both honey bees and our native bees. Native bees are much better at pollination than are honey bees. Bees are responsible for at least 30 percent of our food and for 90% of our wild plants. I have helped to survey bees a few times and expect to get to that again. And now is the time to make sure you are NOT spreading mulch everywhere since most native bees live in the ground. The rest of the the 4000 species of native bees live in hollow tubes and for them, it is fun to build bee hotels In England, they even have competitions for the most beautiful structures. At one refuge, we were removing cedar trees. I drilled a few different of holes in them 4- 8 inches deep. Then we just attached an eye and hung them or attached them to walls.