Although there’s little gardeners can do to combat many of the problems facing bees, we can do our bit to help them out by planting more nectar rich flowers in our gardens, along with making our plots more bee friendly.
The right plants to attract bees
Finding the right plants to attract bees is easy – there are simply thousands you can choose from. In general, old-fashioned, English cottage garden style plants or native varieties with simple single flowers are best for bees, as they tend to contain more pollen and nectar than exotics or plants with complex blooms. Roses, clematis, hollyhocks, geraniums, eupatorium, lavender and edible herbs with flowers, such as thyme, origanum, chives and borage are all ideal.
A place to drink
Apart from adding the right plants, there are other ways for gardeners to help bees. Although we add water to the garden to attract aquatic wildlife or to provide a drinking hole for birds and mammals, this will also benefit bees. Like all creatures, they need to drink and a pond, bog garden, water feature or even a bird bath will provide them with much needed moisture.
There are around 250 different types of bee in the UK. Twenty four of these are bumble bees and there is one species of honey bee, but the rest are solitary bees. These insects often lay their eggs in the cavities left in trees or timber by wood boring beetles, but you can recreate this environment in your garden by mounting a solitary bee nest on a sunny fence or wall.
Consisting of a timber frame stuffed with pieces of bamboo cane, a female solitary bee will place a portion of pollen inside the tubular hole of a cane in spring and lay a single egg on top of it before sealing up the entrance with mud. The eggs hatch into larvae, which will feed on the pollen until new bees emerge the following spring.
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