Creating Suitable Habitats for Bees and Promoting Native Plant Species

Honey bees have received a lot of attention in the media lately, and their decline is a great cause of concern for agriculturists, beekeepers, and the pollinator dependent environment at large. However, native pollinators such as butterflies, birds, bats, native bee species, and other insects are at risk from pesticide usage and a decline in suitable habitat as well. There are more than 4,000 species of bees native to North America, with over 300 found in Pennsylvania. Unlike honey bees, which are found predominantly in managed bee houses, most bee species live in the ground, or in dead wood, and crevices between rocks.

Guidelines for providing natural, native bee nesting sites. Different native bee species will utilize different habitat types, and a variety of possibilities should be offered to attract a variety of bees.

  • Small areas of bare ground surrounded by weedy vegetation
  • Well drained soil on flat or sloping surfaces
  • Dry, dead wood with holes from beetles or other burrowing species
  • mounds of sandy soil
  • well drained soil protected by loose networks of sticks and brush
  • all nesting areas should be within range of foraging habitat (native flowering plants)

Active Sweat Bee Burrow (Just Missed Him) – Ryan Fantasia


Potential Nesting Site: Area frequented by bumblebees – Ryan Fantasia

Wood pile by compost and Exposed Weedy Area: Frequented By a
number of bee species (they seem to enjoy the aluminum ladder too) –
Ryan Fantasia

Some bee species that tend to be more colonial than solitary, like some bumblebee species, will also inhabit home-made bee boxes.

The Xerces Society offers a number of guidelines for maintaining and creating your own nesting sites in this fact sheet: Nests for Native Bees
Pollinator Friendly Lawns

Lush green lawns consisting of just one species of turf grass may look great to humans, but they offer little or no benefit to most bee species. Bare spots encourage nesting habitats for ground dwelling bees, and the flowerless lawn does not provide much of a food source for any bee species.

Some tips for making your lawn more pollinator friendly:

  • Use mixed grass seeds with species such as clover, trefoil, and other low growing, flowering ground cover
  • Eliminate use of conventional grub and insect control chemicals such as pyrethroids and imidacloprid (see the active ingredients in your pesticides and fertilizers!)
  • allow flowering weeds to flourish (they cover your lawn just as well as turf grass does)
  • keep some areas “low traffic” to minimize disruption of ground nesting bees

Native Perennial Flowering Species

In addition to adding clover and other low growing plants to lawns, another solution is to cut back on your lawn area altogether. Native flowering plant species are an excellent source of nourishment and habitat for pollinators and other native insects that can keep pests at bay, and trading some lawn area or exotic flowers for a bed of native perennials can provide greater aesthetic and ecological value to your property.

Planting native species helps to ensure that your work will not go to waste, as they are well adapted to the conditions in your area. Most bee populations have evolved with the native flora, and sometimes one plant species is dependent almost exclusively on a certain bee species, and vice versa.


Check out Northeast Natives and Perennials to purchase native species for your yard, right here in Haycock Twp!


The Xerces Society For Invertebrate Conservation offers information on Flowering Species and other resources for promoting bee habitats through their Pollinator Conservation Resource Center Website:


Through partnerships with the native seed industry, Xerces also offers seed mixes for native wildflowers and grasses that promote pollinator habitat:


Information on pollinator attracting plant species native to specific regions available through: Local USDA Cooperative Extensions:


Native Flower Bearing Plants For Native Bee Species – PA and NJ

Penn State University. (2009). Agroecology in Practice: Conserving Wild Bees in Pennsylvania.

Full Fact Sheet available at:



✝ The USDA-NRCS plants database lists Crisium discolor, a native field thistle, as potentially weedy or invasive. Though you should not encourage large populations, it is a valuable pollinator foraging resource and can be managed as such. Its seeds are not commercially available.
Photograph Credits: Elaine Haug @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database (Lobelia spicata, Asclepias syriaca, Pycnanthemum tenuifolium) Patrick J. Alexander @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database (Apocynum cannabinum) Jeff McMillian @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database (Erigeron strigosus, Prunella vulgaris Jim Stasz @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database (Scutellaria integrifolia, Verbena hastata) Seabrooke Leckie (Solidago odora) Thomas Barnes (University of Kentucky) @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS (Agalinis purpurea, Cirsium discolor) William Justice @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS (Vernonia noveboracensis) Janet Novak @ Connecticut Botanical Society (Eupatorium maculatum) Robert H. Mohlenbrock @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database (Euthamia graminifolia) (Potentilla norvegica)
Bryn Mawr College and Rutgers University. (May 2009). Native Bee Benefits for Pennsylvania and New Jersey Farmers. Pg 6
Full fact-sheet available at:


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