5 ways to make your garden bee-friendly
Having a bee-friendly garden is fantastic news for wildlife. Bee numbers have sadly been dropping in recent years due to the use of pesticides and habitat destruction.
Despite this, bees are essential for food production and help to pollinate most of our fruits and many vegetables. A University of Reading survey estimated that the value of bees to the UK’s economy is in the region of £690 million annually. With this in mind, it’s important that we help them as much as we can. Our gardens and outdoor spaces are one way to help bees and other pollinators to thrive by providing lots of pollinator-friendly blooms and spaces.
Read on to discover how to make your garden more bee-friendly and download the RHS Plants for Pollinators guides for advice on specific plants.
How to make your garden bee-friendly
Know your bees
Just as we all have our favourite foods, different types of bees are attracted to different flowers. Camilla Goddard, the founder of ethical business Capital Bee, keeps more than two million bees across London.
She says that different bees are partial to different plants. Mortar bees like catmint and foxgloves, while honeybees love single-flowering herbs, like rosemary and lavender, and colourful flowers like buddleia. Spring plants like spotted deadnettle, snake’s-head fritillary and lungwort are popular with bumblebees.
How does your garden grow?
When planting flowers for bees, plant flowers in blocks of the same species, as bees would rather feast on one type of plant than a buffet of different flowers.
While we may not see as many bees in winter, it’s best to keep our gardens flowering all year round – it not only gives us something bright to enjoy in the darker months, but late-flying and early-emerging bees will benefit too. In winter, opt for flowering ivy, crocus, hellebore and winter heather.
Flowers like caryopteris and dahlias will keep the bees plied with nectar throughout autumn.
Pollination is tiring work, and it is not uncommon to find a bee lying down on your garden path. Sometimes, they are simply exhausted, and one easy way of reviving them is to give them a sweet treat.
Mix up a solution of one spoonful of water to two spoonfuls of organic sugar and leave it on a spoon or in a milk carton lid by the bee’s head. After it has fed on the solution, slide a piece of paper under the bee and move it somewhere warm, safe and dry outside. Never feed a bee honey, as it may contract a virus from the produce of a neighbouring hive.
Make sure you have a source of fresh water in your garden, even if just a jar or bowl filled with pebbles and topped up with water. The pebbles provide an easy means of escape and allows bees and other pollinators to drink.
Provide a resting spot
Hard-working bees also need a place to rest, and these can be easy to make in the garden at home. Create piles of sticks and straw, or bricks and wood with holes drilled into them. They make the perfect home for passing pollinators.
You’ll find that different materials attract different-sized solitary bees. For example, plant stems and small holes in wood can provide a nesting space for scissor bees.