Helping Bees in your Garden
Albert Einstein is thought to have said that if bees died out, humans would follow about 4 years later.
Bees are pretty big news. They pollinate crops and are worth millions of pounds to our economy. About 35% of our diet is from crops dependent on pollination by bees (perhaps why if they go, we do too!)
They are big news in our gardens too, pollinating flowers and propagating our veg plots. But, they are in big decline. It’s a worrying trend, but we can help.
First – know your bee. There are 2 types.
There are 24 species of Bumblebee living wild in the UK. We know the much loved bumble by their characteristic fluffy bodies.
They have suffered declines because of bad weather, insecticides and a reduction in wildflower grassland for feeding and nesting.
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.
Encouraging Bumblebees in the garden.
While both are found in the garden, it’s all about the bumble for gardeners.
There is much that we can do to help save Bumblebees from decline.
1. Put up a bee house and offer shelter to our bee friends
2. Plant bee-friendly flowers, trees and shrubs. This would significantly increase both food and shelter for native bumblebees, and help reverse their decline.
3. Don’t use insecticides. These kill helpful pollinating insects (including bees) as well as the target insects.
The bee house.
Make your own simple bee house, or buy an already made bee house. 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 more untidy, 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.
Planting flowers for bees.
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.
Bee Happy Flowers Bee Happy Fruit and Veg
Marigold Crab Apple
Cosmos Runner Bean
www.telegraph.co.uk › Gardening