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How to Attract Bumblebees

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Want to attract bumblebees to your garden?

Learning how to attract bumblebees goes beyond planting a few summer blooming plants and hoping for the best. Of course, adding in their favorite forage invites bees to your garden. This is especially true if you offer plants that flower from very early spring through late autumn. But, there are a few other things you can do the create a garden habitat that attracts bumblebees.

Bumblebee on borage

Like honeybees, bumblebees adore borage! Plant it by tomatoes for extra pollination power.

How about adopting the unwanted bees?

In years past we’ve adopted bumblebees that others chose to have removed from their garden. Removing bees happens. Sometimes having bees in an urban garden location just isn’t the right thing for some folks. For us, we’re always signing up with beekeepers to take in bumbling, buzzing waifs. And, we strive to leave some areas of our garden undisturbed in hopes that wild queen Bombus will create her palace in a quite portion of our garden.

Bumblebee foraging asparagus

Different bumblebees forage actively at different times of year & on different types of plants. Some have longer tongues than others; some pollinate by buzzing inside flowers. Notice this bumbler’s red tongue as it forages in an asparagus flower – nom-nom!

3 easy ways to attract bumblebees into your garden:

  1. Cultivate an assortment of plants that flower throughout the year for bumblebees.
  2. Join our online gardening Academy & learn more ways to attract all sorts of pollinators to your garden.
  3. Sign up with a local beekeeper who does poison-free extractions and offers to re-home any intact bumblebee nests into your garden.
  4. Create undisturbed bumblebee friendly areas on your property.
  5. Lay off the ‘cides in your garden.
bumblebee in female zucchini flower

Squash flowers open in the morning sun. Look closely, and you’ll see bumblebees (& other bees) buzzing inside, collecting pollen from the male flowers & dispersing it into the female flowers as they sip nectar from deep inside the blooms. (This is a female zucchini flower.)

Want queen Bombus to nest in your garden?

It’s very easy to convince a queen bumble bee to nest in your garden. In fact, it mostly takes doing less work instead of more. Plus, when the queen chooses your garden, you’ll have more bumblers soon.

  1. Don’t clean up your garden floor ’til every inch looks tidy for the growing season. Yup! Embrace your inner sloth and don’t rake up all that leaf duff that fell last fall and overwintered. Sure, a few slugs may live in there, but so do overwintering queen bees, beetles and other beneficial garden life.
  2. Don’t remove abandoned bird nests. Queen bee loves to snuggle her brood into these cozy cradles of twigs and fluff.
  3. Don’t clean out your bird houses. These are some of the fuzzy, buzzy queen’s favorite abodes.

A few years back when our friend Dan The Bee Man brought us a bumblebee colony, he’d been able to extract the nest intact because they were living in an old bird house. (If the bees had been nesting in the ground, he probably wouldn’t have been able to extract them without destroying the nest.) The following year, we relocated the birdhouse to a protected spot off the ground, and wrens moved in that spring, but no bumblebees. The year after, a new Bombus family has moved into the house again. And, they’d set up shop just a few feet away from several squash plants and our largest patch of tomatoes, which are primarily pollinated by bumblebees.

Bombus nest in bird house

What we believe to be Bombus fervidus* have created a nest in an abandoned bird house in our garden. This is the same bumblebee-friendly house we gained in 2013 thru adoption!

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