Bees collecting pollen from lavender flowers

Four years ago I became interested in bees and pollinator plants. A number of books about Colony collapse disorder caught my eye and, the way I saw it, with more bees in my backyard I could help save a species essential to our food supply and have more tomatoes and zucchinis to harvest. I looked into keeping hives, but this seemed too involved for me; in the end I settled on creating a series of pollinator gardens that ran across most of the property behind our house.

I was dubious, though, about claims that certain plants attract bees.

I’m not anymore.

This story has a sad end, but first let me share the happy beginning with you…

My daughter dug up grass and my husband laid hardscape edging, and within two years I was sharing a beautiful landscape with hundreds of tiny visitors. In the photos below you can see many plants that successfully attracted LOTS of bees.

Holly's garden in spring
Phlox, daffodils and forget-me-nots first, followed by daisies and creeping thyme, and, finally, a gorgeous display of late summer black-eyed susans and Russian sage.

 

Holly's garden in late summer
Tulips and chives in the early spring, followed by daisies, irises, salvia, purple coneflower and black-eyed susans.

I’d love to end this story here, but, sadly, it was after attracting hundreds of bees to my backyard that I got my first sting, an unforgettable incident involving a traumatic trip to the hospital and the discovery that I have a life-threatening allergy to bee stings.

Determined nonetheless, I purchased a bee keeper suit and used it for heavy gardening. It was hot, and sapped a lot of the pleasure from this hobby, which is why I thought I might get away with a quick bush-trim without it one morning. This resulted in my second sting and another memorable experience of anaphylactic shock.

A few days ago I got my third sting while taking a quick peek at my carrots.

Before all these pollinator plants went in, it was possible for me to work a vegetable garden out back, play croquet in the grass and eat on the patio without issues. Now, three years later, the bee population is such that it’s not really safe for me to be out back without protection. Ever.

So… the pollinator plants must go. Sad but true. Next spring we will share these plants with neighbours and friends and go for an entirely new look, with a different imperative: make this backyard unappealing to bees.

The good news is, pollinator plants DO attract pollinators and if those who aren’t allergic transform turf into meadow and annual beds into naturalized, pollinator-friendly gardens, we can create, across the country, a landscape of miniature havens that will help to save the bees.

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