Bees eat pollen and nectar. Pollen is full of protein and nectar is full of carbohydrates and nutrients. Pollen and nectar are found in most flowering plants.
Bees fly from flower to flower consuming and collecting pollen and nectar, transferring the pollen and fertilising the plants. This is pollination. Pollination is a vital service and supports our ecosystem, biodiversity and the production of food: did you know that 70 of the 100 crop species that provide 90% of food worldwide are pollinated by bees? Did you also know that many species of bee are declining?
How can we help them? You can’t go wrong with planting a variety of native, hardy plants that flower at any time, throughout the year.
During the autumn, the team at Bee responsible… plan and order the ‘beneficial’ plants that we want to use on our allotment, display in our own gardens and brighten up our yard that will support bees. We like to keep things simple, adding new plants every year and as part of a long-term goal to improve our outside space throughout the year and supporting wildlife.
We plant a variety of bulbs around trees and in containers that will flower and provide food for bees in the early spring; our favourites are Aconites, Bluebells, Snowdrops and Crocus. If you have space, larger shrubs and trees, such as Mahonia, Rosemary, Blackthorn, Hazel and Willow will add interest to outside spaces and feed the bees!
We start growing Borage, Chives, French Marigolds, Nasturtiums and French beans from seed and plant out the mature seedlings into pots and window boxes later in the spring. We dot the pots around our allotment as part of our ‘companion planting’ initiatives and attracting bees to our fruit and vegetable plots.
Fruit trees, particularly Apple and native hedging shrubs also provide early spring forage. If you are have space for them, expect large fruit, berry and nut yields later in the year – especially if there are bees nearby… !
Primrose and Lavender are planted up around the allotment, garden and in containers for the bees. By summer, the bees are at their busiest foraging on Lupins, Foxgloves, Poppies and shrubs such as Buddleia, Choisa, Cotonester and Verbena. Herbs such as Thyme and fruiting shrubs such as Raspberry and Strawberry are popular with bees.
We throw White and Red Clover seeds into our own lawns and plant up Scabious, Rudbeckia and Alliums to keep the bees fed as we go into the autumn. Sage, Yarrow, Michaelmas Daisy, Mint, Runner beans and Japanese Anenome are the preferred forage at this time of year, but Ivy is a clear favourite as we go into winter and the bees finalise their winter preparations.
There are plenty of plants that bees like to forage on and garden centres stock ‘bee-friendly’ seeds, ‘wildflower seed-bombs’ and plants; look out for the bee logo on the plant label – or ask a staff representative for advice about bee-friendly plants!
To make your local environment more attractive to bees and wildlife, add a water feature, install bee bricks and add small piles of logs to encourage bees and insects to visit. If you have the space, build a bee hotel, add bird and bat boxes, install bird feeders or set aside land for wildflower meadows.
Attract pest-munching insects such as Ladybirds and Lacewings and fill gaps in borders with plenty of weed suppressing plants – or mulch, rather than using chemical pesticides and insecticides to control unwanted pests and weeds. The more we can do to support the bees and their habitats, the more they will do to support us.
Selecting beneficial, flowering plants, educating communities on the benefits of plants and bees and improving our outside space will not only improve our health and our natural environment, but also support our bees and our future.
Bee responsible… let’s get planting!!
For more information about bee friendly plants and how to support bees and insects:
- The Royal Horticultural Society: https://www.bumblebeeconservation.org/about-bees/
- Bumblebee Conservation Trust: https://www.bumblebeeconservation.org/about-bees/
- The Wildlife Trust: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/shop
- Green and Blue: https:// greenandblue.co.uk
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