What to know about bees.

    Bees only live a short time, and they only have one purpose: to guarantee that there will be more bees next year. This job has gotten harder for them as their habitats are disrupted or destroyed and the very plants they pollinate them can be toxic with pesticides. 

    Knowing what bees need is the first step to being able to help them. 

    Honey bees are the best known bees, since they are a managed bee that lives in hives and make honey. But 97 percent of our bees are wild native bees. Bumblebees live in small temporary colonies and the rest, mason, carpenter, sweat bees and others tiny species, are solitary bees.  For them, each queen bee is solely responsible for the future of her eggs. She makes a nest and lays eggs with pollen balls inside to feed the hatching larva until their emergence as bees in spring. Bumble bee queens sleep through the winter, the only survivors of her colony, and in spring immediately build a new nest in which to lay eggs and start a new nest. 

   The bigger the bee, they further they fly, and most bees are so small we think they're gnats! These little ones may live solely in your garden, so what and how we plant is important. 


There's three things that we can provide to help them thrive.

1. Provide abundant food all season!   Plant lots of flowers! Bees need flowers every day. They visit thousands of flowers in their lifetime always searching for nectar and pollen.

     It's important that bees have flowers when they emerge in March all the way through October. 

     In the first days of life, bees actually need to learn how to be efficient pollinators. They choose flowers based on their physiology and once they learn the best way to get pollen and nectar from that flower, they may only visit that type flower. so  plant lots of the same flower together close together.

     Plant different varieties and shapes of flowers to fill the needs of different bees. We have 500 species of bees in Oregon!  


    Add native species to your garden. Bees are more attracted to native plants and flowers. Plus they're great for butterflies and beneficial insects.

2. Don't disturb nesting places. Wild bees live in burrows or in those tunnels beetles burrow under the bark. Or in the nesting boxes people provide. They don't need much space, but they need bare ground or undisturbed piles of wood and brush, which is something most people living in the hamlet can provide. Leave a dead tree up, place an old stump in the middle of your bed and put a pot on it, they can nest in the stump.  This isn't for wasps! This is for friendly bees. Leave some part of your lot unimproved - let the leaves linger, the weeds bloom, the bark fall off a fallen tree. Untidy is ideal for the wild bits of landscape bees need.

3. Stop using pesticides and herbicides. Research ways to get rid of pests naturally whenever possible. Think about attracting more birds to eat the bugs, or bugs that eat your problem bugs. It takes some experimentation, but what are gardeners if not the greatest experimenters on earth? Keep thinking long term and in a few seasons you'll probably solve your bug and weed problems without use of toxic sprays. 

4. Spread the word! Expand your reach by working with your neighbors.  Bee survival depends on how economical they are with their energy spent gathering pollen and nectar. If you can work it out so that your plantings are close to your neighbor's flowers, they don't have to fly so far. Victory for the Bees! Also share your enthusiasm and your extra plants that bees love with your friends, Each flower counts!


useful links

Here are some informative sites that are specific to bees and native plants in the Willamette Valley.

About bees and how to build boxes for them


OSU listing of the top 12 plants to entice pollinators to your garden!


OSU pamphlet on our native plants - lots of details


Sources for Native Plants provided by Clackamas County Soil & Conservation.


Great general resource for planting a bee garden from the Honey Bee conservancy.


Lots of bee  info for all ages, not sure where they're located!


Comprehensive guide to western bumblebees - so cool!


Nurturing Mason Bees in Western Oregon - informative!


Guide for identifying Willamette Bees

fabulous resource put together by August Jackson that will help you identify the bees in your garden. Super photos.

Some Chemicals Known to Be Harmful to Bees


  • Acephate

  • Carbaryl

  • Carbofuran

  • Chloropyrifos

  • Chlorothalonil

  • Chlothianidin

  • Cypermetherin

  • Diazinon

  • Dinotefuran

  • Endosulfan

  • Fenthion

  • Imidacloprid

  • Malathion

  • Methidaphion

  • Methamidophos

  • Methomyl

  • Permethrin

  • Thiomethoxam

Organics harmful to bees

  • Beaveria bassiana

  • Copper Sulfate

  • Diatomaceous Earth

  • Horticultural Oil

  • Insecticidal Soap

  • Pyrethrins

  • Rotenone

  • Sabadilla

  • Spinosad

Beautiful & informative 
movie about a bee species that is fighting to survive.

© 2019 Carol Yamada

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