It’s June – summer’s here! Most people love spending time in their gardens, or in public parks or the countryside during the warm summer months. These green spaces are great for our mental and physical wellbeing. But they’re also vital habitats for the tiny creatures we’re dependant on for our food supply. The pollinators! Why not spend some time making your garden bee-friendly this summer?
Whether your garden is large or small, making sure it’s is a haven for wildlife is one of the best things you can do with it. In this post we outline a few things you can do easily and cheaply, to be hospitable to bees, butterflies and other friendly insects.
Weeding may make your garden look tidier and keep invasive species at bay, but it also has its downsides. Weeds are often fantastic sources of pollen and nectar – such as dandelions. A garden which has been weeded too carefully can lack the diversity needed to support a thriving ecosystem.
Of course, we’re not suggesting you let your garden go totally wild. But letting weeds grow here and there, especially flowering weeds, can really help make your garden a home to creatures who need pollen and nectar.
Grow Bee-Friendly Plants Rich in Nectar and Pollen
Nectar is a vital food for bees and other flying insects like butterflies. Choosing plants and flowers which produce high quantities of this sweet and sticky substance is a great thing to do. Remember, many plants have been selectively bread over the years to improve their appearance or hardiness. But this doesn’t always mean they’re great for bees! As an example, dafoddils looks lovely, but they’re a very poor source of food for bees in the early spring. In fact, a bee will only visit a dafoddil as a last resort! Here are some suggestions for bee-friendly plants.
The Best Bee-Friendly Flowers?
Lavender, with its amazing scent and vibrant purple flowers, it’s a great choice for a garden. Lavender is low maintenance, and cuts well – so you can enjoy it indoors too.
Fox gloves are another great option. They’re tall, so work well in flowerbeds, popping up from behind something lower to the ground. Their trumpet-shaped flowers produce lots of nectar, they’re a great food-source for bees.
Comfrey is a weed-smothering ground covering plants with lots of flowers. It has rather plain looking green foliage, but it flowers well and provides both shelter and food for hungry bees.
Why not try planting foxgloves, lavender and comfrey together – to create a layered flowerbed packed full of bee-friendly flowers!
Best Plants for Bees Year-Round
Other plants which can be helpful to bees all year round include trees like crabapple and flowering cherry, whose blossom is a magnet for bees and butterflies in the early spring. Aliums, which look amazing, are also well-stocked with nectar. Grape hyacinths are early bloomers, providing nutrition early in the season.
Make Bee Hotels
Not all bees live in hives with thousands of others. Solitary bees live independently. They lay their eggs in hollow cavities, leaving enough food for the newly-hatched larvae to eat. You can make a simple bee hotel by cutting up some lengths of garden cane, and bundling them together inside a make-shift box. Even a plant-pot layed on its side full of twigs and canes can make a great bee hotel.
If you have a larger garden, or can dedicate more space to creepy crawlies, why not make a bigger bug hotel. Using old bricks, tiles, logs and so on you can create a fantastic habitat for all kinds of creatures. Make a few bee hotels and incorporate them within your design. This is a great activity for children – it encourages an interest in ecology. And it could really help improve the biodiversity in your garden, as the insects become a valuable food-source for garden birds.
Make Bee Nests
Queen bumblebees look for places to hibernate during the autumn. They often pick old vole holes, or bundles of dry grass. Why not give them a helping hand? Use some upturned old plant pots, filled with dry grass and a length of hose providing a safe entrance for the bee whilst keeping predators out. Here’s a great tutorial.
Look Out for Tired Bees
Bees work really, really hard! All that flying can tire them out, especially if pollen and nectar are proving difficult to find. You can help revive tired bees by using a sugar water solution, on a teaspoon. The same works for butterflies.
We’re dependent on bees and other polinators for our food supply, so it’s only right that we help out tired and wind-swept bees when we see them!
Choose Bee-Friendly Alternatives to Chemical Feeds and Weed-Killers
Pesticides, insecticides and other garden chemicals are bad news for bees. Avoid using them at all and seek out eco-friendly alternatives. Why not create a compost bin and use that to fertilise your lawn and flowerbeds rather than chemical plant feeds. And learn to live in harmony with whatever creatures choose to make your garden their home. They’re all a valuable part of the earth’s amazing ecosystem.
Creating a bee-friendly garden is easier than you might think. It may take a bit of time before you see an increase in the number of creepy crawlies calling your garden home, but anything we can do to support bees, butterflies and other pollinators is a great thing to do.