Planting a pollinator garden will bring beauty to your home, encourage kids to care for the environment, and provide a valuable resource for learning about biology and ecology. And it’s good for bees. Grab your kid-sized gardening tools, native plant seeds, and mud-loving kid and start planting a pollinator garden just for bees and other pollinators.
What Bees Need From a Pollinator Garden
You don’t need a lot of space for a pollinator garden; some pots or buckets filled with flowers will do. If you do have space, you can plant a wider variety of plants and attract a diversity of pollinators. Plus, you’ll have a colorful yard to enjoy with your family.
Important Food For a Pollinator Garden
First, think about what pollinators need—good food. Adult pollinators usually eat nectar from flowers, but their larvae generally need leaves. You’ll also want to plant a variety so something is always in bloom.
It’s best to plant a mix of native blooms to lure in pollinators. Native insects are adapted to native plants, of course, but there are other benefits. Native plants will take less work—they are suited to your environment—and less work is always a good thing when you have kids.
Plant the same species flowers in clumps. Pollinators will be more attracted to a four-foot clump of flowers than blooms dispersed throughout the pollinator garden. Plus, it’s easy for your child to stand in one place and scatter seeds.
Don’t use pesticides or herbicides in or near your pollinator garden. Chemicals designed to kill pests kill pollinators, too. Even organic or natural pesticides. Herbicides can kill plants that provide food for pollinators. Like Darwin, think “survival of the fittest.” Start with a diversity of plants and if a particular species isn’t fairing well, replace it with something hardier.
Plants to Include in a Pollinator Garden
Bees are attracted to blue, purple, yellow, and white native flowers. Show your child pictures of flowers and let them choose some of the plants.
This is a short list of bee-friendly plants. You can also get advice from your local Native Plant Society or nursery.
- Bee balm
- Black-eyed Susan
- Wild rose
Water Is Vital in a Pollinator Garden
In addition to food, pollinators need water. A small tray, shallow pools, and mud puddles are ideal. Just be sure they are kept moist all summer long.
Providing Shelter to Pollinators
After food and water, shelter is the next most important need for bees. Not all bees live socially, some are solitary, so you don’t need a whole hive. An added bonus is that solitary bees are not aggressive. Unless you squish them or step on them, they usually won’t sting. Even when they are provoked to sting, it doesn’t hurt like a bumblebee or wasp sting.
Bees don’t need a lot in terms of shelter: leave cut plant stems exposed, keep a small mud puddle wet, turn over a flowerpot and let them fly in and out of the drainage holes, or leave small piles of twigs around the yard.
| Related: Little Green Thumbs: Container gardening with kids |
A Pollinator Garden and the Hive Mind
Once you and your kids have planted a pollinator garden and welcomed bees to eat, drink, and shelter in your yard, encourage your neighbors to do the same. By extending pollinator habitats, your kids and neighbors can be an active part of the solution to bringing back bees.
Pollinator Garden Resources
Bee Pollination from the USDA.
Melynda Harrison is contributing editor to Outdoor Families Magazine and writes for numerous publications including Big Sky Journal and Montana Parent. Her company YellowstoneTrips.com, specializing in Yellowstone travel. Currently, she is traveling through Europe with her family. Learn more at travelingmel.com, on YouTube, and Instagram.