Planting for Bees
Our bees are struggling, with populations in decline. There are many theories as to why, including the use of pesticides, disease and loss of habitat all being contributing factors.
Sometimes environmental issues feel too large to tackle individually, but if we all do our bit then collectively, we can make an impact.
So what can we do?
One of the simplest solutions is to plant flowers that bees are attracted to. When you next visit a garden centre and are tempted to make a purchase (who isn’t!) spare a thought for the bees and consider whether the plant you have your eye on would make a bee’s day.
Which Bee Friendly Flowers?
You will need to select nectar rich plants; many hybrid plants have been bred not to seed and so produce little pollen.
Flowers with tightly packed petals such as double blooms are more difficult for the bees to access the pollen. Umbel shaped flowers like cow parsley or open flowers such as poppies are ideal.
A garden with flowering plants from winter right through to autumn are great for bees as they provide food for as long a season as possible.
Bees see the colour purple more clearly than any other colour so plenty of purple flowers such as lavender in your garden will have it buzzing with activity.
Planting for Bees suggestions:
Winter – Crocus, Hyacinth, Hellebores, Narcissus, Sarcococca, Hammamalis and Daphne
Spring – Pulmonaria, Snake’s Head Fritillary, Ajuga and Wisteria
Summer – Alliums, Nepeta, Foxgloves, Cirsium, Herbs, Roses, Campanula and Buddleias
Autumn – Echinacea, Dahlias, Roses, Veronicastrum, Fuschia, Actaea and Agapanthus
Other Bee-Friendly Ideas
Leave an area of your garden that’s in the sun to grow a bit wild. This is ideal habitat for some of our burrowing and ground nesting bees. There are also lots of ideas for bee hotels on the internet using sections of bamboo or hollow reeds. Fix on a sunny wall; they need to be stable rather than swinging in the wind, and cleaned out each year.
Bees also need water, so fill a shallow container with water and pebbles for bees to land on; birds will appreciate this too!
Finally, we really need to think about our use of pesticides. Spraying has to be a last resort and organic products used whenever possible. Selecting disease resistant plants, good cultivation, garden hygiene and biological control should all reduce the occurrence of pests and diseases. But I think we also have to change our view on bugs in the garden. Whilst leaf and flower damage can look unsightly, if it’s not going to kill the plant then we have to accept a bit of untidiness and imperfection. If we allow insects and wildlife to find their own balance in the garden, then nature will sort itself out.