How to Create a Bee-Friendly Garden

Monday, 18 June 2018 15:19:06 Europe/London

In addition to your gardening supplies, you’ll need a few extra things to make sure that the bees visiting your garden are happy and safe. From flowers to bee houses, you can easily attract and provide for bees.


Bees That Might Visit Your Garden

With over 225 species of solitary bees in the UK, you are likely to see a wide variety pollinating your garden. With no social caste, solitary bees work to feed only themselves and their larvae. Out of these species, here are a few you might see flying around your flowers:

- Carpenter bees. These bees are typically large and black, similar to bumblebees but with a shiny black abdomen.

- Mason bees. Known for using mud for nesting, you might see them around March before the honeybees show up.

- Leafcutter bees. You might see them from June to August, often using flower pots or the soil.

- Digger bees. These bees make nests in the soil, varying from three to five centimetres long and with hairy bodies.

- Mining bees. Mining bees are solitary but often build their nests close to each other, in tunnels and cells underground.

Bumblebees have approximately 26 species in the UK, with four cuckoo species and eight bumblebee species found in gardens. Important agricultural pollinators, these bees have round bodies that are covered in soft hair. The queens find appropriate nests before raising their larvae, with this adult offspring becoming worker bumblebees that collect pollen and nectar in the summer.

The months of mid to late-summer see the following year’s queens being produced alongside male bumblebees and, by October, the males, the workers, and the old queen die.

Honeybees can have up to 60,000 bees in their colonies, with a queen bee keeping the social unity and laying eggs. The worker bees, the infertile females, gather pollen and nectar, build combs, defend and care for the hive, and for the larvae.

They compose the majority of honeybees, but a few hundred of drones, male honeybees, are also part of the colony to mate with the queen.


Encouraging Bees to Visit and Stay in Your Garden

Planting bee-friendly flowers all year around ensures that bees keep visiting no matter the season. Native wildflowers, berries, flowering herbs and other plants are perfect for bees, especially when planted together. Plants that have long blooming cycles make sure that bees keep returning and pollinating your garden.

Annual bedding plants should be avoided due to how much they have been bred, which makes it difficult for bees and other insects to get in their misshapen flowers. Cottage garden perennials and herbs tend to be good choices.

Don’t forget to allow your plants to flower so that bees can get all the nectar and pollen that they need. With vegetables and herbs such as broccoli, make sure to leave the main plant intact when you harvest the vegetables. This can be particularly important in colder months when bees have no other food source.

Some flowers and plants you can have in your garden to attract pollinators, are:

- Long-tongued bumblebees, in particular, favour red clovers, although these flowers are a staple for all species of bumblebees.

- Easy to grow and perfect for your garden all year round, marjoram is great for bees and other pollinators.

- Knapweed flowers between July and August and it’s preferred by male bumblebees as a drinking post.

- Foxglove flowers are favoured by long-tongued bees, such as B. pascuorum and B. hortorum. They’re biennial and flower the best under the sun.

- A great alternative to grass, white clover looks lovely in any garden.

- Viper’s bugloss is a biennial flower that blooms in the months of July and August. Producing high quantities of nectar, it’s easy to see why all bees love it.

- Spring flowers such as crocus, bluebell, and lungwort are great for bees.

- In the early-summer months, you can plant sweet pea, thyme, and poppies.

- Cornflower, honeysuckle, and lavender are great for late-summer months.

With bees facing a crisis and risking extinction due to losing their habitat and due to the use of pesticides, making sure they have a safe place to stay while in your garden will help them out immensely.

Place your bee houses facing wither south or south east, to ensure it gets as much sun as possible. The house should be at a minimum height of a metre off the ground, and with the entrance free of any blockage. To prevent the structure and its contents from going mouldy, the house needs to stay dry at all times.

When autumn and winter come around, it’s a good idea to move your bee house to protect nesting bees from October to February. An unheated and dry area is perfect, giving your bees shelter and protection. Bees such as Leafcutter bees, Mason bees, and Yellow-faced bees use bee houses for breeding.

These cavity-nesting, solitary bees use hollow stems for nesting and they’re perfect for your garden should you have pets and children. They don’t swarm and they’re not aggressive – the perfect pollinators.

Different species of bees are likely to build cells and lay their eggs in your bee house, adding nectar and pollen to feed the larvae. The holes’ entrances will be covered with materials such as mud and leaves for safety. Once they hatch from their eggs, the larvae eat the food supply and pupate before growing into adult bees who will continue the cycle of pollination in your garden.

Like with all animals, water is also very important for bees. A bird bath with a few stones for bees to be on while drinking fresh water is perfect. Water your broccoli leaves and your cabbages for a good resting and drinking stop for your bees. Regardless of what water source you choose for your bees, make sure that it’s shallow and has plenty of resting areas so that bees can drink safely.

We know how important bees and other pollinators are for every garden, and we want to make sure that you have everything you need to provide them with a safe place in your garden. Contact us on 0845 602 3774 to know more about our products or browse our website for more gardening gifts and supplies.


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