Over the past few years there has been a steady decline in the numbers of bees in the UK. As much as 25 native species are now considered to be extinct, with a further 10 species under threat “what does that have to do with me?” we hear you ask.
Well, small changes that you can easily make in your garden will greatly help our bee population – so if you’re not ready to give up the honey in your morning oats, then grab your gardening gloves and help save these little guys.
How you can start saving our bees
First of all, it’s worth noting that you don’t have to “bee” an expert gardener, or own and maintain half an acre to contribute to the preservation of our bee population. It doesn’t cost a fortune or need perfect weather conditions, and it doesn’t take up much time either – so it really is a win win all round.
Plant ‘bee friendly’ flowers
It may seem obvious, but one of the easiest changes you can make in your garden is to plant bee friendly flowers – it will have the biggest impact, and costs much less than you think. Some examples of these are:
- Spring – lilacs, lavender, sage, verbena, and wisteria.
- Summer – Mint, squash, tomatoes, pumpkins, sunflowers, oregano, rosemary, black, honeysuckle. They’re quick and easy to plant, and are relatively low maintenance!
- Autumn – Fuschia, mint, bush sunflower, sage, verbena, toadflax.
Top tip: University of Sussex has a fantastic list of plants that bees love to visit – so you can plan your summer garden.
It’s a no brainer that chemicals are harmful to the environment and must be avoided if you’re trying to encourage bees into your garden. The safest way to do this is to grow from your plants from the seed, as the plants you buy at the local garden centre may have already been treated with pesticides.
But if you don’t have the green thumb and prefer to buy, then trying to figure out what’s safe and what’s not may leave you scratching your head. The good news is that have banned the use of neonicotinoid pesticides which is harmful to insects, so any plants you buy from them should be fine to use.
Weeds are friends, and food
We’re not asking you to throw out the rule book on gardening here; but, some weeds are a really great food source for our bees. Most weeds are actually wildflowers and can look really beautiful in your garden, so be selective with the ones you rip out.
The RSPB has a great guide on how you can create your very own meadow space in your garden!
The same goes for your lawn – bees love hiding in long grass, so why not leave it to grow a little longer? Besides, who really wants to mow the grass every week anyway? If your lawn does start to get a bit unruly, then mowing it on a setting that doesn’t cut so close, will still help those little guys find somewhere to rest when they’re out and about pollinating your lovely garden.
Top tip: Raise the notches on the mower to lift the cutting blade a few centimetres to keep the grass longer when cutting.
Another way you can help not just bees but other helpful insects in your garden, is to create a ‘bug hotel’. Thankfully, not the kind that requires regular room service – but a pile of wood in the corner of your garden is the perfect escape for all those creepy crawlies. Try to keep it natural by using logs and branche – avoid treated wood or manmade wood like MDF. Pop a couple of plants around it and you’ve also got yourself a feature!
It’s not just the plants that need watering
Now you’ve created a beautiful bug oasis, remember that it’s not just the plants that need water, but the bees too! This one is super easy, just leave a little basin of water somewhere for them to pop along to for a quick refreshment break after they’ve been busy working their magic in your garden.
Top tip: If you see a bee looking a little worse for wear, leave some sugar water by it. This should pep it up a bit and get it back in the air and on its way in no time. Moral Fibres has everything you need to know on reviving a tired bee.
Every little change will help our bees!
Any one of these ideas will make a huge difference – and if you choose to do all, or even just one of these steps, you will be helping these wonderful little guys!