Beverly Bees Urban Farm

How To Plant A Bee Friendly Garden


Attract honeybees into your yard by planting a bee friendly garden. Your vegetables will thank you!
 

Spring is finally here and if you are a gardener like me you are itching to get your hands in the soil and get some plants in the ground.  I'm reminded of years past and my struggles to grow certain crops.  Despite my best efforts, cucumbers were always absent from my garden harvest.  Year after year, no matter how hard I tried, I could not get many cucumbers to grow.  After I became a beekeeper, the reason for my cucumber troubles became apparent, what was missing from my garden were the honeybees.  

Now I always think about how I can accommodate more bee friendly plants and flowers into my yard to make a sanctuary for honeybees and other beneficial pollinators.  This is as easy as planting a small patch of native wildflowers, herbs or even a flowering vegetable garden.  Keep it chemical free, let it continue to flower and you will be providing a vital food source for the local bee population.  As an added bonus you’ll get your vegetables well-pollinated and have an excellent harvest at the same time.  Just follow these simple guidelines.  

Bees enjoying the wild flower garden

Provide Bee Friendly Habitat

  • Choose plants that attract bees – Bees love native wildflowers, flowering herbs, berries and many flowering fruits and vegetables.  Some honeybee favorites here in Massachusetts include – mints, basil, sage, thyme, borage, oregano, lavender, chives, buckwheat, berries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cucumbers, tomato, winter squash, pumpkins, melons, watermelons, broccoli, crocus, snowdrops, jonquils, tulips, sunflowers, asters, dandelions, clovers, lilacs, wisteria, cosmos, black-eyed susans, gaillardia, cup plants, goldenrod, loosestrife, bachelor’s buttons, bee balm, sedum and honeysuckle.  If you have the space, planting any type of fruit tree is perfect and trees such as maple, willow, black locust and sumac are also good food sources for bees. Planting flowers like Crocus or Siberian Squill in your yard is a simple way for a suburban gardener to provide an early spring food source for bees. Click Here to see pictures of the beautiful blue pollen of the Siberian Squill flower. 
  • Group the same plants together - Try to plant at least one square yard of the same plant together to make a perfect bee attractor. But if you are short on space, planting just a few wildflowers or herbs in a planter or window box is all that’s needed to provide more foraging habitat for the honeybee. 

  • Pick plants with long blooming cycles - Or choose plants with successive blooms. This way the bees will keep coming back again and again.   A seed kit like this makes attracting bees to your garden easy.    
  • Let your plants flower - Leave the flowers on your plants until they are dead to allow the honeybees to get the pollen and nectar they need. If you are growing herbs or vegetables such as broccoli, harvest it but leave the plant intact. When you are done let it go to flower for the pollinators and leave it in the garden until the flowers are gone. Last December, I saw firsthand how important a food source like broccoli left to flower in a backyard garden was to my honeybees at a time when nothing else was available for them to eat. 
  • Provide a fresh water source - A sloping bird bath with stones for bees to stand on, a backyard waterfall, a pool, a dripping hose, almost any shallow water source will do. Cabbage and broccoli leaves full of fresh morning dew, and freshly watered potted plants are favorite destinations for my bees.  
  • DO NOT use pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals in your garden – Or anywhere in your yard including your lawn, other gardens and trees.  After all, you are trying to attract bees right? Most of these chemicals are toxic to bees and have widespread effects which are detrimental to plants, beneficial insects and other native pollinators. This ban also applies to products your lawn care company uses. When in doubt leave it out. This article explains how toxic some backyard chemicals are to bees.
     
  • Appreciate the beauty of weeds- Dandelions, clovers, loosestrife, milkweed, goldenrod and other flowering weeds are very important food sources for bees. In areas filled with green sprawling lawns, dandelions and clovers are vital plants for a bees survival. Let them grow and flower in your yard and you will soon have your own personal honeybee sanctuary. The next time you see a dandelion going to seed, grab it, blow those seeds around and feel good knowing you are doing your part to help save the bees. It can’t be more simple than that! 

Other Posts You May Enjoy From BeverlyBees.com:

  1. Parts Of A Beehive – A Beginner Beekeeper’s Guide 
  2. Blue Pollen, Honeybees and Siberian Squill 
  3. Raspberry Honey Jelly 
  4. A Beginner Beekeeper's Guide 
  5. Top Bar Hive Honey Harvest With Sam Comfort   

[This post has been reprinted with permission from BeverlyBees.com] 

How To Paint A Beehive

AnitaPainting a beehive is simple if you remember this basic principle.  Paint the outside and leave the inside where the bees live unpainted. While it is not necessary to paint your hive and some people choose not to do it at all, painting a hive will help it stand up to the elements and last longer.  Paint helps protect wooden hive parts from the rain, snow, sun and other weather elements.
 

Hive parts primed and drying in the sun
Hive parts primed and drying in the sun. Once dry they will be painted with a final topcoat in a different color.  

Before painting you hive, you will need to coat the hive in an exterior primer first before putting on the final coat of paint.  I recommend an oil based exterior primer for better weather protection, but any type of exterior house primer will work.  For the pictures here I used a gray oil based primer left over from another project.  The color of the primer is not important.  But primer is important to seal and protect the wood, it helps the final coat of paint adhere better, and helps the surface paint resist moisture and mildew.

Painting a hive body with primer
I used a gray colored primer left over from another project to paint the hive bodies. 

When choosing a topcoat color, white is the classic color to pick for a hive, but almost any color will work.  It is best to avoid black or another very dark color because these colors may cause the hive to get too hot in the summer sun, depending on the location of your hive.  Any leftover exterior house paint you have lying around will work to paint a beehive.  If you’re not picky about the color, you can save a few dollars by getting quarts or gallons of discounted “oops” paint on clearance at the hardware store.  As long as the color is not too dark and the paint is exterior house paint you can use it to paint your hive.

One thing to consider when choosing the color to paint a beehive is whether or not you want the hive to blend into its surroundings or stand out and be noticed.   If you have neighbors close by who may not be happy living near a beekeeper, or your hive is in a place where it can be vandalized, it is probably best to paint the hive in muted colors or a color to blend into the apiary.  This slight camouflage will help the hive remain unnoticed to most passerby's.  If this is not important to you then go ahead and have fun with it, get creative with colors and patterns, the bees won’t mind and it will make for an interesting conversation piece. This is also a fun project to do with children, who can come up with some amazing designs!

Painting a beehive is simple if you remember this basic principle.  Paint the outside and leave the inside where the bees live unpainted (the only exception is the bottom board).  A complete breakdown and list of which hive parts to paint is included below.  For a description of the parts of a beehive please read  Parts of a Beehive and watch this short video How to Set up a Beehive. 

How To Paint A Beehive

1. Wooden Hive Stand – Paint all surfaces.  The hive stand needs to stand up to the elements. If you use pressure treated wood for your hive stands, you will not need to paint them.  That being said, I have never painted my untreated wooden hive stands and they are just fine.

2. Bottom Board – Paint all wood surfaces.  DO NOT paint the screen if using a screened bottom board.  The bottom board gets the most abuse so it needs to be well protected.

Hive parts painted with primer
Hive parts painted with primer. Left to right - outer cover, screened bottom board and slatted rack. 

3. Entrance Reducer – DO NOT paint this piece.  It is only used sparingly and may be chewed on by your bees if used for longer periods.

4. Slatted Rack – Paint the outside plus the top and bottom edges.  DO NOT paint the inside.  Some people choose not to paint the top and bottom edges because they find it causes the hive bodies to stick together in warm weather.  I have not had this problem where I live in New England as long as my paint has had time to dry thoroughly before using the hive.

5. Hive Boxes or Supers - Paint the outside plus the top and bottom edges.  DO NOT paint the inside. Again, some people choose not to paint the top and bottom edges because they find it causes the hive bodies to stick together in warm weather.  I have not had this problem where I live in New England as long as my paint has had time to dry thoroughly before using the hive.

6. Frames – DO NOT paint the frames.

7. Inner Cover – DO NOT paint the inner cover.

8. Outer Cover – Paint all wood surfaces on the outside.  Paint the top and bottom edges and inner sides.  DO NOT paint the inside/underside.  DO NOT paint the metal top.

Drying in the sun after being painted with primer
The parts of one hive painted with gray primer and left to dry in the sun. As seen left to right - two hive bodies, slatted rack, screened bottom board and outer cover. This photo illustrates which parts of the hive to paint and which parts to leave unpainted. After this primer dries the hive will be painted yellow to match our house. 

Here is a link to a helpful graphic from Essex County Beekeepers Association indicating what parts of a hive to paint.

What do you use to paint your hive?  What color(s) do you like to use? What spectacular designs have you come up with? Let me know in the comments below.

To see more beginner beekeeper posts please click here.  Click here to read How To Assemble A Frame. 

If you are interested in these stories and more beekeeping tips you should Sign Up Here for our email newsletter and Receive new posts by email. 

Other Posts You May Enjoy From BeverlyBees.com:

  1. Parts Of A Beehive – A Beginner Beekeeper’s Guide 
  2. The Unassembled Bee Hive – A Beginner Beekeeper’s Guide 
  3. How To Set Up A Beehive Video – A Beginner Beekeeper’s Guide 
  4. How To Assemble A Hive Box or Super – A Beginner Beekeeper’s Guide 
  5. How To Assemble A Frame – A Beginner Beekeeper’s Guide 
  6. How To Wire A Frame – A Beginner Beekeeper’s Guide 

[This post has been reprinted with permission from BeverlyBees.com]