Save the bees. Plant a pollinators' garden.

Time: 
Month

Honeybees are crucial to producing about one-third of all the food we eat. The list of crops that simply won’t grow without honeybees is a long one: apples, cucumbers, broccoli, onions, pumpkins, carrots, avocados, almonds…and it goes on. (Download NRDC's Bee Facts for a full list). Without bees to pollinate many of our favorite fruits and vegetables, the United States could lose $15 billion worth of crops. Are we speaking hypothetically here? Well, no. Researchers estimate that one-third of all honeybee colonies in the United States have already disappeared.

Plant a garden attractive to pollinators, bees in particular. Here’s how:

Include a wide variety of plants. Ideally, your garden should have blooms from early spring into late fall or, if possible, for the entire year. If you choose plants with a variety of shapes and colors, you will be more likely to attract different types of pollinators. Planting in clusters will make them easier to for the insects to locate.

Plant native species. This is the best way to attract and nurture bees. The following plants are particularly rich in pollen or nectar:

* Aster (Aster) * Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) * Blazing star (Liatris) * Caltrop (Kallstroemia) * Creosote bush (Larrea) * Currant (Ribes) * Elder (Sambucus) * Goldenrod (Solidago) * Huckleberry (Vaccinium) * Joe-pye weed (Eupatorium) * Lupine (Lupinus) * Oregon grape (Mahonia) * Penstemon (Penstemon) * Purple coneflower (Echinacea) * Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus) * Rhododendron (Rhododendron) * Sage (Salvia) * Scorpion-weed (Phacelia) * Snowberry (Symphoricarpos) * Stonecrop (Sedum) * Sunflower (Helianthus) * Wild buckwheat (Eriogonum) * Wild lilac (Ceanothus) * Willow (Salix)

Avoid using pesticides. There are many natural ways to control pests in your garden. If you must use pesticides, read the labels carefully in order to avoid spraying chemicals that are highly toxic to bees, such as most neonicotinoid pesticides. Be sure to spray your plants after dusk, when pollinators are least active. You should also be wary of using multiple pesticides at once. Many active ingredients are more toxic when used in combination with other pesticides.

Here are some of the pesticides most toxic to bees and what they’re commonly used for.   * Clothianidin: Corn, canola * Dinotefuran: Cabbage, bell peppers, cotton, grapes, melons * Imidacloprid: Cabbage, pumpkins, cotton, blueberries, citrus, grapes, melons * Thiamethoxam: Bell peppers, cotton, cantaloupes, cherries, pears, strawberries, watermelons.

To learn more:

Download Bee Facts from NRDC (in PDF format)

See “The Vanishing Bee,” a cover story in NRDC’s OnEarth magazine.