Albert Einstein is thought to have said that if bees died out, humans would follow about 4 years later.
Bees pollinate crops and are worth millions of pounds to our economy. About 35% of our diet is from crops dependent on pollination by bees. Einstein may have had a point.
They are garden friends too, pollinating flowers and propagating vegetables. However, they are in a worrying decline. But we can help.
First – know your bee. There are 2 types.
There are 24 species of Bumblebee in the UK. We know the much-loved bumble by their characteristic fluffy bodies.
Bad weather, insecticides and a reduction in wildflower grassland for feeding and nesting has contributed to their decline.
Honeybees are slimmer and smaller than Bumblebees, having a closer appearance to a wasp. They live in hives and are looked after by beekeepers to produce honey.
Britain’s cultivated honeybee population has been badly affected by the varroa mite, which has spread rapidly since 1992.
While both are found in the garden, it’s all about the bumble for gardeners.
Here’s a few ways we can help this awesome little insect.
Make your own simple bee house, or buy an already made one.
Fix bee boxes in a south-facing spot but not in direct sunlight. Point the entrance downwards so it stays dry inside.
Some species of bumblebee like a wood-pile. Make a pile of logs, stems and branches and just leave it be. The untidier, the better!
Other species will enjoy a grassy bank to nest in – let the grass grow tall and plant pollen rich plants along the edge of the bank.
Have a good variety of pollen rich flowers that have different flower shapes and a range of flowering periods from early spring to late summer.
Try to ensure at least two different plant species in flower at any time during this time to make sure your bees don’t go hungry. Most double flower forms lack pollen or nectar so these are best avoided.
There are lots and lots of flowers that bees love. If you want just one or two varieties to help the bees, any variety of Scabiosa or a wild flower would be perfect.
We’ve also listed a few here, and some links to other sites if you’re considering what to plant to help the bees thrive in your garden.
Finally, avoid using insecticides. These kill helpful pollinating insects (including bees) as well as the target insects. Go organic and natural where you can.