Help Native Bees

We need native bees

There are more than 500 species of native bees in Eastern Canada. Native bees (and other pollinators) provide an extremely important service in our ecosystem. Many of the foods and crops we rely on benefit from native bee pollination. 

  • Bees move large amounts of pollen between flowering plants, thus pollinating flowers, leading to great seed and fruit production
  • About half of the world’s plant species depend upon animals, like bees, for pollination
  • Some plants require a specific native bee for proper pollination. For example, tomatoes can only be effectively pollinated by Bumblebees, and apples are most effectively pollinated by Mason Bees.

Did you know? European Honeybees are non-native and were brought over by settlers to be cultivated for their honey, and later to provide pollination services. 

You can learn more about Native Bees through these links:



Make a difference

There are steps you can take in your own backyard or garden to help pollinators such as native bees. 

Plant native flowers

You can help boost the local bee population by planting native flowers and plants in your backyard. Besides providing food for bees, butterflies and insects, native plants:

  • Are low maintenance
  • Require little to no watering once established
  • Are adapted to our climate
  • Increase local biodiversity

Below are some suggested shrubs and flowers which are native to Halton Region. For more information visit the Optimize Garden Butterflies webpage. This spring, Conservation Halton expects to be offering a Garden In-A-Box kits once again to help gardeners with a selection of different native plants suited to different conditions - sun, shade and rain. 

Halton Native Shrubs
Alternate-leaved Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
Choke Cherry (Prunus virginiana) Downy Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)
Dwarf Serviceberry (Amelanchier sanguinea) New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus)
Peach-leaved Willow (Salix amygdaloides) Pussy Willow (Salix discolor)
Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) Smooth Juneberry (Amelanchier laevis)
White Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)  
 Halton Native Flowers
Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Joe-pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum) New England Aster (symphyotrichum novae-angliae)
Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) Wild Columbine (Aquiledia canadensis)
Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana)  
Ontario Native Flowers

These species are nectar sources native to Ontario but may not naturally occur in Halton Region. They are acceptable in a garden setting only. They should not be used in or adjacent to natural areas. 

Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) Blank Flower (Gaillardia aristata)
Coneflowers (Echinacea sp.) Ironweeds (Vernonia sp.)
Lance-leaved Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) Mountain Mints (Pycnanthemum sp.)
Purple Giant Hyssop (Agastache scrophulariaefolia) Rough Blazing Star (Liatris aspera)
Yellow Giant Hyssop (Agastache nepetoides)  

Providing native bee nest sites

Providing our native bees with artificial nesting sites, like plant stem tunnels, or some bare ground is a good way to attract bees to your garden and increase the local population. 

Here are some helpful steps to help you provide native bee nest sites:

  • Artificial nest sites can be easily made by gathering a bundle of hollow plant stems
  • Each bee species has a specific hole size they prefer to use, so use a vareity of hole sizes to attract a variety of species. One end of the stem should be closed. Tunnels should be 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 inches) in length and placed  horizontally
  • These nests need to be replaced each year; only discard the old bundle after you are sure the new generation has emerged, which is usually by mid-summer
  • Once the stems are filled and capped off (usually mid to late summer) carefully place them in a box with an opening or cover with wire mesh to protect from birds
  • Leave the filled nests outside, in part shade, so the eggs and pupae can mature properly but won’t overheat. You can leave the nest out over the winter or place in an unheated shed as long as the nest bundles are outside by April. The bees will start to emerge as adults to start the cycle over again in April and May
  • Put out a new bundle of fresh hollow stems each year (before April) sothe bees will have a fresh and clean nest site to lay their eggs in

For more information check out Habitat Network’s Bee Hotel webpage

Providing a vareity of nectar and pollen sources near the nest will mean the bees do not need to go far to find pollen and nectar supplies. Wooden blocks drilled with holes are not recommended unless replaced every two years. They are very hard to properly clean and disinfect and can become disease ridden which will harm the local population. Grabbing and cutting a handful of new plant stems is easier and more hygienic.