Bees are critical to our food system, but worryingly bee populations are in decline due to habitat loss, global warming, and harmful pesticides. So, why not turn your garden into a haven for pollinators by adding more plants for bees they will love!
With thick, fluffy bodies and an unfathomable work ethic, the humble and charming bee is an insect that symbolizes many things, from community to resilience.
To me, bees also symbolize bountiful crops, fields of blooming, swaying flowers, and warmer, golden days.
Days when you can sprawl out on the spongy, grassy earth as a warm breeze flows over you, your garden’s borders bursting with newly blossomed life and gorgeous floral fragrances.
When you can see all sorts of pollinators busying themselves around your garden, that’s when you know you’ve done it right.
There are hundreds of bee species in the UK alone, from tree bumblebees to red mason bees.
And if you pay attention, you may see them crawling around the faces of your sunflowers or hovering amongst your herb garden.
A hard-working honey bee collects nectar from a Michaelmass Daisy
Contrary to popular belief, bees are not merely the producers of honey – they are so much more than that.
As these fuzzy creatures gather nectar, pollen collects on their furry bodies, passing onto more plants, thus fertilizing them.
Bees are critical to our food system, and their future now rests in our hands.
Why are bees at threat?
Bee populations are declining due to habitat loss, global warming, pesticides, and more. Unfortunately, they are facing countless man-made threats and cannot overcome them alone.
A phenomenon in which a honey bee colony loses most of its worker bees became a significant problem back in 2006. Colony Collapse Disorder has impacted honey bees on a massive scale.
Although there is no known cause, many people theorize that it could be due to pesticides or poor beekeeping practices.
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Why should we attract more bees to our gardens?
Bees are the most important pollinators, particularly the hard-working honey bee. Without them, we would not have such variety or abundance of food and flowers.
Instead, we’d have to become accustomed to a life with severely limited fruit and vegetables.
Leaving your lawn to grow wild is an easy way to make your garden more bee and insect-friendly
We should lend bees a helping hand because we are the ones who have put them at risk of extinction. Everything has its purpose, and every purpose is crucial to the balance of our ecosystems on earth.
So let’s have a look into how we can do our part for the bees!
How to attract more bees to your garden
1. Grow a variety of plants for bees
Different species like different flowers. For example, bumblebees have long tongues, allowing them to get nectar from flowers like foxgloves and hollyhocks.
Foxgloves are tall plants with tubular bells often found under the dappled shade of woodland trees, but you’ll also likely spot them in cottage gardens.
Where there is a foxglove, there is likely to be a bumblebee nearby! Honey bees, however, prefer easily-accessible flowers like spring blossoms and sunflowers.
If you’d like to see an array of bees in your garden, do your research, and plant an assortment of bee-friendly plants.
2. Make your grass into a meadow
Meadows are now one of the rarest habitats in the UK. These wildflower-rich grasslands are incredibly beneficial to pollinators, and so it would be a fantastic idea to create a mini meadow in your own garden.
Bees thrive in a variety of overgrown grasses, and they love the flowers that we humans often consider ‘weeds’.
Creating a meadow patch is a low maintenance task because you can scatter wildflower seeds and wait for nature to take over.
3. Avoid using chemicals in your garden
Pesticides are created to kill insects, including beneficial creatures like bees. You should avoid using pesticides in your garden, especially when plants are in flower.
You can prevent pest problems by keeping a diverse garden with mainly native species and encouraging natural predators like ladybugs.
4. Plant mostly native plants
Native plants are plants that naturally grow in the local area. Local species evolve to rely on native plants, so they are the most beneficial for your local bees.
They are also much easier to keep healthy!
5. Create a garden that is constantly flowering
Bees are not a common sight in the colder months. However, they don’t completely disappear.
By creating a garden that flowers every season, you can provide yourself with something to admire year-round while benefiting pollinators too.
6. Remember their favourite colours
Research suggests that bees can see purple, blue and yellow clearer than other colours. So make sure to plant flowers like rudbeckia, hyssop, and borage.
Diversity is always key when supporting a range of species, so do not feel you have to stick to solely these three colors.
7. Make the most of sunny spots
Placing flowers and bee hotels in sunny spots will increase your chances of being visited by bees.
Bees also love many flowers that require full sunlight, such as lavender and cornflowers.
Bug hotels are a great way to attract more bees to your garden and give them a safe space to lay their eggs in
8. Make a bee hotel
Putting together or buying a simple bee hotel can provide shelter for solitary bees and a safe place for them to lay eggs.
If you aren’t confident in your bee hotel-making abilities, you can buy them in your local garden center.
9. Leave your garden to grow
Let nature take the reins and leave your garden to grow wild. Allow the dandelions to bloom and enjoy how the white clover spreads like a blanket across your lawn.
Even a mere patch of overgrown grasses and flora can support many creatures.
10. Add a water source
Bees need to take a drink break now and then, just like us. You can create a watering station for them by adding a birdbath or pond to your garden, or even a small pot.
Most importantly, your water source should prevent insects from drowning, and a simple way to achieve this is by adding pebbles or rocks to the bottom of the water.
11. Have a mixture of grass
We all know that leaving the grass to grow long can support wildlife, but did you know that it’s particularly beneficial to have different grass lengths?
The wildlife charity Plantlife recommended that giving your grass a ‘Mohican’ style haircut can encourage healthy growth and make your garden a haven for wildlife.
Some bee-friendly plants for bees to get you started
Bees aren’t the only insect who need a helping hand in order to thrive.
Article courtesy of Food & Living Vegan, by Jenny Edwards