The humble bee is one of the most important insects to human life as we know it. As well as buzzing around our gardens on warm summer days, they also pollinate one-third of the world’s agricultural crop, worth $19 billion in America alone. Apples, blueberries, peaches and cucumbers are just a few of the foods we’d have to live without if bees didn’t exist. We’d also have to say goodbye to honey, used in both food and medicine, as well as the majority of flowering plants around the globe. With a plummeting decline in bee populations over recent years, experts are calling on all of us to provide a safe habitat for these little insects in our gardens. Here’s how you can help.
The first step is knowing which flowers to plant to attract bees. They love honeysuckle, lavender and jasmine, as well as wild flowers like foxglove and white clover. If you have a herb garden, bees love lemon balm and rosemary. If you're not really sure where to start, you can pick up specialised packs of bee-attracting seeds. If you decide to buy ready-grown flowers however, buy organic as they may have been treated with a pesticide that is toxic to bees.
Plant flowers close together in a sunny spot in your garden. Bees love clumps of flowers together so they don’t have to travel far between them. If you have the space, leave an area of your garden to grow wild, with minimal maintenance. This will also attract butterflies and other important insect life into your garden.
Never use pesticides on plants that are in flower. Pesticide use is one of the key factors in bee population decline, even those that can be bought and used in the home. Look to alternative methods, such as citronella-infused products, to control any unwanted pests in your garden.
A surprising 90% of bee species in the UK are solitary and rely on dead wood and undisturbed land to nest. These habitats are declining at large rates, so introducing an insect house or a bee hotel is a great way to provide a safe haven for these endangered insects. You can make these yourself from old bits of wood and bark lying around, or you can buy premade hotels that you can place in bushes, trees or anywhere up high.
Want to make sure your garden is an absolute paradise for natural wildlife? Look through the articles in our Gardens Department to get lots of tips on creating your very own patch of the wild.