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How to Attract Bees to Your Garden [Complete Guide]

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Bees can do wonders for our gardens and our planet, but you’ll need to know how to attract them if you want to see the benefits in your garden. If you want to invite these handly little pollinators to your property, you’ll need to decorate it with the flowers, plants, scents, and colors they like.

In my past few years of gardening, I’ve been making some changes to bring in more pollinators, and I’m so happy to say that this year has been my best year for produce yet. From my fruiting passion vine to my heirloom tomatoes and fresh peaches, I’ve finally got a garden that’s humming with the sound of happy little bees hard at work.

So, now that I’ve tested out all of the tricks and seen incredible results, I’m ready to tell you exactly how you can do the same thing and get the best from your backyard – all while helping your neighborhood bees thrive.

How to Attract Bees to Your Backyard

Bee in Garden Flowers
I love bees! They are cute, helpful, and in need of our help. So, let’s bring them into our yards and reap the benefits of befriending them.

The bee needs our help right now. Populations of many species of bees are severely declining, and we cannot afford to lose this fantastic pollinator!

Luckily, attracting bees to your garden is pretty simple if you take a few steps in the right direction, and by doing so, you can help the bees. Plus, having bees nearby will help you keep your crops productive!

So, here’s how to attract bees to your backyard:

  1. Stop using pesticides in your backyard.
  2. Plant bright, fragrant flowers.
  3. Put out sugar water to feed the bees.
  4. Turn your garden into a bee-friendly ecosystem.

1. Stop Using Pesticides In Your Backyard

The best start to a bee-friendly garden is to stop using pesticides and insecticides.

You may feel like turning to pesticides and insecticides to eliminate unwanted garden pests like caterpillars, aphids, mites, gnats, ticks, and many other bugs.

However, using pesticides comes with a cost. In many cases, these pesticides will kill or threaten bees and other pollinators. At the very least, the smell of the pesticide will ward off any bees in your yard, leaving you pollinator-less.

So, avoid using pesticides at all costs. However, if you must use a pesticide, use one that is EPA-registered as bee-safe. You’ll see a small bee logo on pesticides that won’t harm your neighborhood bees.

2. Plant Bright, Fragrant Flowers

A bee’s diet consists of nectar and pollen, while younger bees also consume honey and flower oils. That’s it. They don’t eat anything else.

Since bees exclusively rely on flowers to stay alive and reproduce, having a banquet of blooms in your yard is the best way to encourage them to stay.

What Color Are Bees Attracted To?

Bees are attracted to several colors and prefer white, yellow, blue, or ultraviolet flowers. These colors stand out against green foliage, making it easy for bees to spot their next meal.

Bees have incredible vision and can see more colors than we can. This sharp vision helps them find flowers when they’re buzzing about, searching for spots on the petals they can use as landing pads.

However, the flowers your bees choose to settle on will depend on how easy it is to see these “landing pads.”

Because flowers and bees have evolved together, some flowers have colorful, ultraviolet blotches at the base of their petals that the human eye cannot see. When looking through a bee’s eyes, these patches glow brightly, making them easy for pollinators to spot.

In addition, some colors make these ultraviolet patches pop out, which is part of why bees prefer white, yellow, and blue flowers.

However, flowers with other colors will still attract bees. They just won’t look as appealing at a glance.

Placing an iris flower under UV light reveals the colors a bee sees when they look at it.

What Smells Attract Bees to Flowers?

Mild, sweet, and herbal scents attract bees to flowers. A flower’s fragrance radiates from the plant, which bees can smell to locate nectar and pollen.

Flowers smell good for a reason. Fragrant scents from flowers permeate the air, attracting pollinators. Thus, a flower’s smell helps ensure that the plant can fruit, go to seed, and re-seed every year, preserving the species.

So, sweet flowers like bee balm, lilies, lavender, clematis, roses, and peonies will attract more bees to your garden. Plus, you’ll have a yard full of fresh, aromatic blooms that come back year after year – what’s not to love?

Bee Balm's smell, color, and broad buds Attract Bees
Bee Balm, as its name suggests, attracts bees due to its sweet, herbal scent and large buds where bees can safely land while harvesting pollen.

What Plants Attract Bees?

Plants that attract bees include fragrant flowers, flowering herbs, and fruit trees. Certain flowers are more attractive to bees than others due to their color, scent, amount of pollen and nectar, and shape.

Although I could list out all of the best plants for attracting bees, it would take days – if not years. However, there are some tips and tricks you can use when determining what plants will attract the most bees:

  • Flowers. Does the plant in question have flowers? If so, it will likely attract some bees. It might or might not be the most popular pollination station in your garden, but as long as it has some flowers, at least one bee will land on it, guaranteed.
  • Shape. Flowers with broad petals or stems can hold a bee while it eats, so these are the most desirable. Flowers like daisies, roses, sunflowers, echinacea, poppies, and dahlias are great examples.
  • Fragrance. The fragrance isn’t necessary, but more bees will come if your flowers smell good. For that reason, sweet-smelling flowers and flowering herbs are the best choices.
  • Color. Bees love colorful flowers, but as I mentioned, they prefer white, blue, yellow, and ultraviolet colors.
  • Fruit. Last but not least, if your flower produces fruit – think garden crops, apple trees, orange trees, etc. – bees will come. Fruiting plants rely on pollinators to produce fruit, and their blooms are often the most enticing to bees.

You can find some fantastic examples of flowers that attract bees in our other articles on white and yellow flowering herbs.

Still, if you want to take the guesswork out of choosing your flowers, get yourself these Save The Bees Wild Flower Seeds, scatter them in your yard, and call it a day. Once they bloom, you’ll have bright, colorful wildflowers greeting you whenever you walk into your yard.

The Bees' Favorite
Package of 80,000 Wildflower Seeds – Save The Bees Wild Flower Seeds

This premium pack of 80,000 wildflower seeds can help allure honeybees and other beneficial insects like ladybugs and butterflies.

You get pure, non-GMO seeds such as Cosmos, New England Aster, Butterfly Milkweed, Purple Coneflower, Red Corn Poppy, Sweet Alyssum, and tons more!

PAID LINK - We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

3. Put Out Sugar Water to Feed the Bees

Although most people know that bees eat flowers and their byproducts, few are aware that you can feed bees with a bee feeder.

Setting up a bee feeder in your garden is one of the easiest, quickest ways to attract bees. Plus, it can also attract hummingbirds.

How to Give Bees Sugar Water

Bees adore sugar water! Just put some out in a bee feeder, and you’ll be their best friend.

You’ll need to make a bee feeder to give your bees sugar water. Bees drown easily, so you need a sugar water dispenser to keep them safe. Luckily, it just takes a few everyday items and less than 10 minutes to make one!

So, here’s how to do it:

  1. Get your supplies. You’ll need a glass jar with a lid, a shallow bowl, a few handfuls of gravel, some hot water, and sugar.
  2. Prepare the sugar water. Combine one part hot water and one part sugar in your jar, then stir it with a spoon or chopstick until all the sugar dissolves.
  3. Puncture holes in the lid and put it back on the jar. Use a sharp pointy object to puncture many holes in the jar’s lid, leaving it looking a bit like a shower head or the spout on a watering can. I use my sewing awl for this, but you can also use a nail and hammer. Once your lid is hole-y, put it back on the jar.
  4. Fill your shallow bowl with gravel. Your bowl doesn’t have to be full. The gravel should just be at least 1 inch thick.
  5. Turn the jar upside down over the gravel, allowing the water to flow. The sugar water should gently fill the bowl, then stop after it saturates the gravel. If the bowl overflows, take some gravel out and try again.
  6. Set your bee feeder outside on a flat surface near flowers. I keep my bee feeder on a table on my patio next to my potted plants, but you can put it anywhere that’s flat. Placing it near flowers will ensure that the bees see and smell the feeder. Eventually, they’ll be coming back for a snack every day!

Alternatively, if you don’t want to go through the hassle of making a bee feeder (or if you don’t have any gravel), go with a commercial bee feeder like these:

2 Pack Bee Feeder
$11.99 $9.99 ($5.00 / Count)

These bee feeders just need some sugar water, then they're ready to go! Set them outside near your flowers to attract plenty of hungry bees.

Get More Info
PAID LINK - We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
05/09/2024 03:00 pm GMT

How Do I Attract Bees to My Bee Feeder?

You can attract bees to your bee feeder using flowers, colors, and scents. Bees are more likely to find your bee feeder if you place brightly colored, fragrant flowers near it. Once they find the bee feeder, they’ll know where to come when they need food.

You don’t even need to use real flowers or plants to attract the bees. Putting out fake flowers with a yellow, white, or blue color will bring them in. Add a few spritzes of floral perfume or splash some sugar water on them, and you have the perfect decoy.

4. Turn Your Garden Into a Bee-Friendly Ecosystem

There is more than one type of bee, and each one needs specific living conditions to stay alive, reproduce, and be happy.

Some bees live in rotten wood, others live in the ground, and others create hives in any type of hollow area they can find. Some are solitary, and some live in groups.

So much to say, creating biodiversity in your backyard will help you protect and support all of the bees – not just one type.

This one will be the easiest to follow of all the tips I’ve given you: let your yard get a little messy.

Leave some logs and branches to rot away, providing shelter for bees and nourishing your soil. Use old leaves as mulch and compost to keep burrowing bees safe from the rain. Allow some debris to accumulate – it’s okay. It’s all for the bees!

Bee Burrowing In the Dirt
Bees live in all sorts of places – even in the ground! Making your yard a healthy habitat for all bees will bring in the most pollinators.

5. Give Your Bees Shelter

And the last thing you do? Consider becoming a backyard beekeeper.

Beekeeping doesn’t have to become a full-scale operation. You can simply leave rotting logs lying out, leave bee hives where they are, or get yourself one of these adorable bee hotels, which can shelter winged insects from rain and provide a permanent home for tunnel-nesting bees:

Lulu Home Wooden House for Bees, Butterflies, and Ladybugs
Get More Info
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However, getting your first bee box set up and producing honey and wax is a real treat, and it’s not nearly as hard as you might think.

It takes a bit of prep and research to get going, though, so if you want to invite some bees to live rent-free in your backyard, you might find these books helpful (I know I do!):

Helpful Beekeeping Books

  • Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture, 2nd Edition
    $39.95 $30.12

    Natural Beekeeping is one of my favorite books on this list, and I usually turn to it before I go to any of the other books. It's considered the most authoritative source for organic and sustainable beekeeping practices, which is why I think that every backyard beekeeper should have a copy.

    Get More Info

    PAID LINK - We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    05/08/2024 01:46 am GMT
  • The Beekeeper's Journal: An Illustrated Register for Your Beekeeping Adventures
    $19.99 $6.89

    This book came recommended to me by a fellow beekeeper, and it is the perfect planner for staying on track with all of your beekeeping tasks. Having a good place to record honey harvesting, pest and disease treatments, records of how your hives are doing, and any related maintenance is critical, and this guided journal and workbook makes it easy.

    Get More Info

    PAID LINK - We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    05/09/2024 03:34 am GMT
  • Beekeeping for Beginners: How To Raise Your First Bee Colonies
    $19.99 $12.89

    This beekeeping classic is a fantastic introductory guide that anyone can understand and easily read through. It's one of the most popular beekeeping books, and I anticipate that it will stay that way.

    Get More Info

    PAID LINK - We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    05/08/2024 01:39 am GMT
  • Build Your Own Beekeeping Equipment: How to Construct 8- & 10-Frame Hives; Top Bar, Nuc & Demo Hives; Feeders, Swarm Catchers & More
    $19.95 $15.95

    This is probably my favorite beekeeping book. It's unique and has all the plans and advice you need to make your own beekeeping equipment. So, pick this one if you want to start beekeeping on a budget or are a DIY-er like me!

    Get More Info

    PAID LINK - We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    05/08/2024 01:39 am GMT
  • Beekeeping For Dummies
    $24.99 $19.39

    Although I don't normally reach for the "Dummies" books, this one is fantastic. It's the best book to use as a quick reference for no-frills technical information that's easy to follow and understand. A must-have for anyone, whether you're a pro or have never seen a bee before in your life.

    Get More Info

    PAID LINK - We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    05/08/2024 01:40 am GMT
  • The Beekeeper’s Bible: Bees, Honey, Recipes & Other Home Uses
    $40.00 $30.99

    This aptly named book contains quick-reference chapters on all things apiculture. It has gorgeous illustrations, but beyond the stunning surface, it has a wealth of knowledge to share.

    Get More Info

    PAID LINK - We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    05/08/2024 01:39 am GMT

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Now that you know what plants, flowers, colors, and smells attract bees to your garden and how to make your backyard a bee haven, let’s address some questions you might still have.

I’ve heard quite a swarm of queries about how to attract bees to your garden, so if you still have some questions, here are some answers!

Why Are Bees Not Coming to My Garden?

Bees might not be coming to your garden if there isn’t a hive nearby, if your flowers are not blooming, or if the weather is wet or windy. Bees need energy and dry days to find food; if the flowers are far away or not blooming, or if it’s windy and raining, they won’t make the trek.

Can I Buy Bees To Pollinate My Garden?

You can buy bees to pollinate your garden from beekeepers. Some beekeepers sell bees online, but you can also talk to a local beekeeper to rent or purchase a queen or hive.

How Do You Attract Bees and Not Wasps?

You can attract bees and not wasps by trapping wasps or removing their hives. Wasps are important to your garden’s ecosystem, but removing their nests is the best way to keep them away.

What Are Bees Afraid Of?

Bees are afraid of water and anything that threatens their hive. Bees can drown easily and want to protect their young, so they fear deep water, rain, and large animals that show an interest in their hives.

Final Thoughts

Now it’s time to head on out to your yard and use the power of color, smells, and plants to attract bees to your garden!

You’ll love having more bees in your backyard. Not only are they mesmerizing to look at, but they also increase pollination, so you’ll harvest a bigger vegetable crop!

Let us know if you’ve tried any of these tricks and how they’ve worked out for you! Also, if you have any tricks we missed, please share them in the comments below. We’d love to learn from you.

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