how to attract bees

The poor bees have taken a beating lately.  Between wet summers, a reduction in their natural habitat, disease, and the Government voting against banning the use of pesticides harmful to bees, the numbers of butterflies and bees in the UK has drastically plummeted.  Which as well as being bad news for bees, is bad news for us, as it’s estimated that at least a third of the plants we eat are directly or indirectly dependent on being pollinated by bees.

Although this vote has just been overturned by the EU (which I’m still ‘buzzing’ with excitement about!) – which means neonicotinoid pesticides (the ones that may harm bees) have been banned for use in all EU member states for the next two years – our little fuzzy friends aren’t out of the woods yet, and still need all the help they can get to help recover their population.  That help can start with you and your garden or window box, so here’s a Moral Fibres guide on how to attract bees to your garden:

How to Attract Bees To Your Garden

Plants that Attract Bees

Aim to plant a diverse mix of nectar and pollen rich plants, with a mix of early flowerers, sustained flowerers and late bloomers, so that from spring through to late summer there are flowering plants in your garden or window box.

When planting, aim to plant traditional native plants – think cottage garden and you’re on the right lines.  From roses, to lavender, to clematis, to hollyhocks, alliums, butterburs and geraniums, as well as edible flowering herbs, such as chives and thyme – as all of these are highly valued by bees:

bee friendly plants

(Left to right: alliums, butterburs {spring bloomers}, hollyhocks)

For a complete list of bee-friendly plants, here’s a very comprehensive list from the British Beekeepers Association, split by season, that can act as a handy guide.  Remember, aim to have a variety of plants that bloom from spring right through to autumn to keep the bees happy and rich in nectar!  This post on bee friendly plants is also very handy!

What Plants to Avoid

Some plants have been bred by horticulturists to look pretty, but provide little by way of pollen.  For that reason pansies and double begonias are best used only as part of a wide range of different flowers in your garden.

Other Useful Advice on How to Attract Bees to Your Garden:

bee hotels

A bee hotel will encourage solitary bees to lay eggs in your garden.   For a low cost option, gardener Alys Fowler recommends bundling some bamboo canes in a south-west corner, out of prevailing winds.  You can also drill holes in some bits of wood, which will also do the job

It’s also a little known fact that bees need drinking water – a small shallow dish in your garden will suffice.

Financing Your Garden

You can buy ready established plants at garden centres, but it’s easy to get carried away and spend a ton of money.  A more cost effective method is to pick up bee-friendly seeds at most garden centres and even supermarkets, allowing you to easily sow a little wildflower meadow for a pound or two.  Devote a patch of your garden to these seeds, or sow some in planters or tubs and the bees will be buzzing about in no time.

The most cost effective way of bee friendly gardening, however, is by getting together with your friends, family or neighbours to take cuttings from any plants you have already established in your gardens.  Most plants take well to being split at the roots (here’s some good advice on how to do it) or taking a cutting from, so you could have a little free plant swap.  Or you could take a small payment for each plant (say 25p) and donate the takings to a bee charity, such as the Bumblebee Conservation Trust or if you make enough you could adopt a hive.

Not Green Fingered?

bee gardening tips

If all this sounds like too much hard work then lazy gardeners the country over will be rejoicing when I say don’t be too harsh on the weeds.  Bees and butterflies don’t discriminate between your best flower-show quality roses and the dandelions pushing up on your path or lawn.  Weeds offer pollen and nectar to bees, and are just as valuable as any other plants in your garden – so there you  go – a nice excuse to put your feet up and let the weeds poke through – you’re doing it for the bees!

Even if you are a proud gardener, it’s prudent leaving an area of your garden to weed over for wildlife in general – nettles are especially beneficial to butterflies.

And, you know, the more bees you can attract to your garden then the more your garden will grow, with minimal effort from you, as the bees will do all the hard work of pollinating all of your flowers and vegetables.

And that’s how to attract bees to your garden!  Have I missed anything?  Do let me know in the comments below!

And one last pertinent point:

Don’t Have A Garden?

This post on how to help bees even if you don’t have a garden shows you how to do your bit!

Images: 12 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 – Opal Explore Nature / 7 / 8

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