July 7, 2022

Easy Ways To Make Your Garden Bee Friendly

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Bees are crucial for our survival and the planet overall. However, due to things like habitat destruction and invasive farming methods, some say the bee population is plummeting. Luckily you can help them by turning your garden into a bee-friendly habitat that can enable them to survive - and thrive. 

So, keep reading as we explore how you can do your bit for the planet just by making a few adjustments in the garden… 

Why are bees so important? 
Most of us see bees as cute, fuzzy insects that buzz around during the spring and summer and occasionally need a helping hand with some sugar water. What we often forget is that bees are a vital part of our complex ecosystem. We rely on their pollination for many things we consume on a day-to-day basis, such as fruit and vegetables, oils, fibres - and even medicine. 

It’s estimated that about 90% of flowering plants rely mostly on pollinators (including bees) to reproduce. So, since they play such a large part in plant survival, let's consider the indirect effects of a declining bee population. Plants pollinated by bees and other pollinating insects increase seed production and help boost species decline. As a result, they help produce the oxygen we breathe and absorb CO2. What's more, the animals fed by these pollinated plants produce dairy and protein sources. Considering all this, could you imagine what the world would be like without bees? 

Ways you can help the bee population:

Plant the right flowers
One of the best things you can do to provide for bees in your garden is to be selective about the kind of plants, shrubs and trees you cultivate. Bees love plants with single, open flowers that are easy to collect pollen from. A lot of annual and seasonal bedding plants and flowers are ideal for them, so why not buy some seeds and get the whole family involved in seed sowing?

Some ideal bee-friendly plants include:

  • Coneflower
  • Lavender 
  • Cosmos
  • Catmint 
  • Chives
  • Sunflower
  • Dahlia
  • Foxgloves
  • Honeysuckle 
  • Nasturtium

Don’t forget about trees and shrubs - bees love Darwin's barberry, Buddleia, Hydrangea, Apple trees, Flowering currant and Pussy willow. 

If you’re not sure about what to plant and at which time of year, head to your local gardening centre or nursery for advice. Alternatively, if you already have bee-friendly plants and shrubs, why not exchange cuttings or divisions with your friends or neighbours? 

Ditch the chemicals
One of the biggest threats to bees is pesticides. Whilst you might not think that avoiding chemicals in just one garden could make much of a difference, consider the use of pesticides multiplied across thousands of gardens - now you can see the real threat to bee habitats. 

We know that pests are annoying in the garden - they can rampage flowerbeds, eat your diligently grown fruit and veg and appear to be nothing but a nuisance. But they help to form part of the delicate ecosystem as they provide food for other species, such as birds and hedgehogs. You can combat many pest issues without the need for pesticides. For instance, a sharp spray from the hose can be enough to remove any unwanted visitors like greenflies. Or you could pop on a pair of gardening gloves to pick off any big beasties such as caterpillars. Putting straw under your crops can deter slugs and snails, and netting around your veg can block out birds and squirrels too.

If you must use pesticides, ask your garden centre if they have any natural or non-toxic pest treatments. Many ingredients are toxic to bees and you should avoid them, such as copper sulphate, diatomaceous earth and sabadilla.

Create a bee and insect hotel
Why not create your very own bee hotel to provide a unique and cosy habitat for your fuzzy friends? Bee hotels are super easy to make - you only need a few bits and bobs from around the garden. So raid the shed, greenhouse and garden to gather: 

  • Bamboo canes
  • Sticks and twigs
  • Dried-out leaves
  • Paving slabs
  • Wood off-cuts 
  • Stones
  • Cardboard

Bee hotels are simple to make and don’t need to look perfect to be effective - the goal is to create lots of small dark gaps and holes for nesting or resting. Find a shady spot in your garden that won't be disturbed by kids or pets, and make a frame out of wood off-cuts or by leaning pieces of paving slabs together. 

Once the frame is ready, fill it with the other materials to create hiding spots and gaps that are just big enough for bees to nest in. If you don’t feel like making a bee hotel, why not head to your local discount store or garden centre to buy one ready-made? 

Say no to mowing
Did you know that letting the grass grow can increase the amount of pollen and nectar in your garden? And it can provide coverage, and a be a haven for all sorts of wildlife.

It's true, so see if you can resist mowing the lawn or designate certain areas to become wild. Bees and other insects such as butterflies, moths and beetles can thrive in spring when gardens and parkland areas have been left alone. This is mostly due to common weeds like dandelions, clover and daisies being allowed to flourish, but you can buy wildflower seeds and get scattering too. 

So, if you want to boost pollen and nectar levels in your garden and provide a great habitat for a variety of insects, leave the lawnmower in the shed this spring. 

Bees need water too
Bees need fresh water to survive, just as other garden visitors do. However, many water sources can be too deep for bees and pose a drowning risk, so it’s a good idea to evaluate your garden to see how you could improve this. 

If you have a pond, ensure there are lots of floating, flat surfaces for bees to land on and ways for them to get back out of the water if they get stuck - the same goes for any bird baths too. You don’t need anything too fancy to help bees stay hydrated, just use a shallow container and ensure it contains other floating materials (such as sticks, lily pads or pieces of cork) to rest on whilst they drink. 

Now you have some easy ideas to help make your garden a little more bee-friendly, what will you try first? 

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