Bee sanctuary buzzing in Alterra yard

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Ed Steidler built a wildflower sanctuary in his yard to provide a feeding ground for bees, hummingbirds and butterflies.

Steidler has seen the local honey bee population decline heavily over the last five years. He theorized the increased use of pesticides may have an effect on the population, but mites in the hive and other causes could be to blame as well, he said.

In an attempt to help the declining numbers of bees, he wanted to provide an area where they could drop in and feed.

“The reason I started this project was to help the honey bees out,” Steidler said. “They’re in a big decline right now and nobody seems to know the complete reason why. They’re down about 50 percent, so the bee associations are promoting that people try to start planting flowers and stuff just to help them out for something to feed on.”

The “flowers and stuff” occupy a strip of land in the Stiedler front yard. Ed and his wife Cindy are also putting in a similar sanctuary in the back yard. Stiedler looks for blooms that naturally attract bees through pollen and nectar.

Across America, more than two of every five bee hives died in 2014. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of bee colonies dropped 42 percent. That is second only to the 45 percent loss in 2012. In Arizona, the colonies declined by 43 percent.

The study showed more colonies died in the summer than in the winter, a new trend that may indicate there are multiple causes to blame for the mass amounts of bee deaths.

The continuing decline has bee associations and concerned citizens like Steidler looking for ways to help. The Steidlers put in their front-yard sanctuary this spring. Now, it’s not only bees finding attractions in the Steidler sanctuary.

“I’ve got all kinds of honeybees, hummingbirds and butterflies coming each day,” Steidler said. “I ordered wildflower seeds. It’s real simple, and they took off like crazy. It’s really worked out well.”

According to Steidler, he has received positive feedback from his neighbors, and members of the community have shown interest in building similar wildflower sanctuaries in their own yards.

Build a Bee Sanctuary
1. Choose native plants to attract native bees. Talk to a local Master Gardener (Mac-Pinal-MasterGardener.org/) about the best plants for bees in Maricopa’s climate.
2. Choose colorful flowers. Bees buzz to yellow, blue, purple and white.
3. Choose plants high in nectar or pollen. Not all blooms that are “showy” are good sources of pollen.
4. Plant flowers close together and in the sun.
5. Sequence plants throughout the year to have various species always in bloom.
6. Maintain a container of water with stones or sticks above water level for bees to land on while drinking.