With around 2,000 different species of bees across Europe, Gardens provide essential nesting, shelter and sustenance for many types.
Many wild bee species are in rapid decline due to the use of pesticides and loss of habitats. Wild bees need a helping hand now more than ever before.
A brilliant way to do your bit is to create a bee friendly garden. You don’t need a lot of space to create a garden for bees. Even a balcony will suffice.
Bee Friendly Plants
As more property is built on greenbelt land and gardens become more barren, bees can find it hard to forage for nectar and pollen.
Here are some of the best flowering plants that are rich in pollen and nectar that you can plant in your garden.
Not only will they add beauty to your outdoor space. They will also keep hungry little bees happy. Here are some of the best flowers for bees.
Single Head Flowers
Most double-headed flowers are sterile and do not have nectar or pollen. Others have way too many petals in the way that block bees from getting to that all-important nectar.
While it is tempting to go for hybrid flowers that have an extravagant display, these are almost always worthless for a bee-friendly garden single flowers are best. Single flowers are also shallow enough for short-tongued bees to easily access nectar with ease.
Think along the lines of:
If possible, try to choose flowers that you would see out in the countryside and avoid hybridised flower species. Most of these are easy to grow garden flowers perfect for bees and other pollinators.
Tubular flowers such as snapdragons, honeysuckle, foxgloves, and penstemons are all favourites of long-tongued bees.
The bell-shaped flowers of these types of plants make accessing nectar easier for the garden bumblebee.
Here are some of the most popular tubular flowers to use in a bee friendly garden:
Honeysuckle is especially attractive for bees and is one of the most nectar-rich flowers you can plant in your garden. They are also long-flowering and provide ample shade for bees from the heat of the full sun, making them a great afternoon resting place.
Purple Plants for Bees
As we have touched upon before in our facts about bees post, bees cannot see the colour red. However, they can see purple… better than any other colour.
This makes purple flowers (and blue flowers) perfect for a bee-friendly garden. Many purple flowers also attract other pollinators such as butterflies to your garden.
Some of the most productive purple plants you can add to your garden or balcony include:
Even though purple flowers are ideal for a bee garden, don’t go pulling up any other flowers you already have… even red ones.
Bees may not be able to see red. But red flowers have coloured centres that act as highlighted landing pads. Adding purple flowers into the mix will help other flowers get pollinated by a variety of bees too.
All Season Flowers
Although bees tend to hibernate from October to February, on milder winter days workers may head out to forage.
This is why it is a fantastic idea to use plants that flower right through the year. Here is a list of seasonal flowers you can use in spring, summer, autumn and winter.
Avoid Pesticides in the Garden
Yes, pesticides may be great for getting rid of aphids and caterpillars. But sadly, pesticides are not selective and will harm bees as much as any other insect.
Pesticides are bad news for bees, and also for the environment. Going organic in your garden is a great way to help ecosystems thrive and natural order to return.
Instead of lacing your plants with harmful chemicals to get rid of aphids, encourage ladybirds and hoverflies into your garden. Aphids are the natural prey of these useful garden bugs.
Include citrus-fragranced plants such as lemon balm, lemon mint and lemongrass to help keep flies and gnats away.
If you must use pesticides, you should avoid spraying open flowers at all times. One of the best ways to get rid of garden pests is with a hosepipe and a spray nozzle.
Simply blast the offending bugs away once a day. Throughout the warmer months, you will most likely need to water your garden anyway. So giving the leaves a good spritz with a misty jet of water can work wonders.
Talking about water. Bees need water just as much as any other insect. Place a shallow dish of water near your most active plants. Place some pebbles or rocks in the dish, so they have a safe place to land without drowning.
Create Nesting Sites
Unlike honey bees, solitary bees such as bumblebees, carpenter bees, mason bees and mining bees will quite happily take up home in your garden.
Burrowing bees won’t need any help in setting up home. If you notice small mounds of soil near holes in the ground, you most likely have a bee in residence (so be careful not to flood them out when watering your lawn).
Hedges and shrubs are the preferred choices for many types of bumblebee. Flowering hedges and shrubs not only provide shelter, but also a source of food.
Mason bees will quite happily move into a DIY structure that you build for them. Why not check out our DIY Mason Bee Hotel project for some inspiration.
You can even convert an old bird box into a bee house by closing the main entry and drilling a few smaller holes around it.
Finally, don’t forget to include some ornamental grasses. These provide a place for bees to hide, and many produce flowers that are beneficial to bees.
Bees Are Good
Many people are scared of bees and panic when they see them nesting in their garden. The majority of bees are docile and will go about their day without even recognising you are around.
If you notice bees nesting in your garden, count yourself lucky. While they feed on nectar and pollen, they are also useful for getting rid of many unwanted garden pests.
“If you leave the bees alone, the bees will leave you alone.”
Don’t go destroying their nest or using pesticides to kill them. If you really don’t want them in your garden, you can have them removed and relocated by a professional.
It’s now more important than ever to make sure that wild bee populations are protected as much as possible. Because once a species is extinct, there’s no going back.