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Gardener issues warning about hidden dangers of popular bee-saving tactic: 'Many people don't know'

"That's what happens in nature."

"That's what happens in nature."

Photo Credit: iStock

Native gardens provide a multitude of benefits, like saving time and money on maintenance, conserving water, and lowering water bills. Aside from these, one of the biggest benefits of rewilding your yard and leaning into native plants over a traditional grass lawn is that the native plants provide food to pollinators, like bees, which benefits the entire ecosystem. 

However, one Redditor recently made a post in the r/NativePlantGardening subreddit about an increasingly popular way of bringing bees to your garden, which sparked quite a discussion.

"I've been reading up on native bees," the poster wrote. "I started reading about 'bee condos' but have uncovered that they have a dark side that most people don't know about … Many people don't know how to spot signs of different diseases and pests that, if not treated, actually hurt the local pollinator community because the higher density of insects that theoretically congregate around these habits allow them to become 'super spreaders' in the area."

"Bee condos," also known as "bee hotels," are a somewhat controversial topic among native plant gardeners. They are little houses that you can build yourself or buy readymade on the internet, usually made out of wood or cardboard, that are meant to attract native bees.

The problem with bee hotels, as the poster alluded to, is that they don't always attract the species that the gardeners intend them to — sometimes they attract non-native bee species, insects that are predators to the pollinators (such as wasps), and even birds and mice.

"Why not just plant native plants and leave debris around? That's what happens in nature," one commenter suggested. "Bee hotels look cool, but they're not natural. Why not recreate the bee habitat? It seems more sustainable in the long run. I got rid of my urban front lawn, planted natives and put down mulch, and last spring my front porch was swarming with mason bees. No extra work on my part."

Other commenters agreed. 

"70% of native bees are ground-nesting….so add some bare ground and sandy soil patches to your garden and avoid mulch and you're good!" another wrote.

There was also a contingent that claimed to have had success with bee hotels, but for the most part, the native plant gardening enthusiasts who populate the subreddit agreed that bee hotels, even if they do attract the right kind of native pollinators, leave them too susceptible to predators.

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