Green fingered Brits are being offered advice on how they can turn their humble backyard into a blooming oasis for bees and other pollinators.
The experts behind online retailer BillyOh.com have researched the seven things gardeners can do this year to attract bees to their gardens and help them thrive.
Choosing tubular shaped and purple flowers and building a quick and easy bee bath are just some of the things you can do to create a bee-friendly garden.
A spokesperson for BillyOh.com said: “Bees are incredibly important for the environment and for humanity in general.
“It’s been estimated that bees pollinate around a third of everything we eat and play a vital role in sustaining the planet’s ecosystem, with some 84% of the crops grown for human consumption relying on bees and other insects to pollinate them to increase yields and quality.
“As a result, we should be doing all we can to help bees survive and thrive, and we can all play our own little part in this.
“In order to do so, ideally your garden should contain lots of bee friendly flowers that are rich in pollen and nectar, but you could even go a step further by supplying a bee-bath and a place for native bees to build their homes!”
1. Opt for single headed flowers
Although double headed flowers such as roses and carnations, look fantastic, they produce much less nectar and make it difficult for bees to access pollen. This is because in double flowers, stamens have been transformed into extra petals for a fuller, showier bloom. The lack of pollen means pollination cannot occur and so the flower remains open for longer as it waits – so they look great – but they’re no use to bees.
Instead, opt for single headed flowers such as daisies, poppies, sweet peas, geraniums and marigolds. A single headed flower has a single count of petals, whereas ‘double flowered’ species describes varieties of flowers with extra petals, often containing flowers within flowers, like petunias and peonies.
2. Plant flowers for all seasons
Although bees are most active from March to September, overwintering queens and workers may emerge on warm days in winter too, so it’s vital you provide flowers throughout the year. You should consider having at least two nectar- or pollen-rich plants in flower at any one time. The nectar feeds the adult bee, while the pollen is collected to feed the young.
3. Don’t overlook shrubs
When planting for bees and other pollinators, it’s easy to concentrate on flowers and overlook shrubs which are often easier to maintain and many, such as the Cotoneaster, have year-round interest. The Cotoneaster is a simple shrub that has a lot going for it – the small white flowers appear in the spring and are loved by bees, and in the autumn it is covered by bright red berries which the blackbirds love.
4. Choose tubular-shaped flowers
Tubular-shaped flowers such as foxgloves, honeysuckle and snapdragons are the go-to places to feed for long-tongued bees such as the garden bumblebee.
5. Purple flowers
Bees can see purple more clearly than any other colour, so it’s a good idea to grow lots of purple plants such as lavender, alliums and catmint. Of course, flowers of other colours will still attract bees though, so it’s good to keep a variety.
6. Create a ‘bee-bath’
Just like humans, bees need a place to access fresh, clean water. You can help them by filling a shallow container of water with pebbles or twigs for the bees to land on while drinking. Make sure to maintain the container full of fresh water to ensure the bees know that they can return to the same spot every day.
7. Provide homes for native bees
For wood- and stem-nesting bees, leave piles of branches, bamboo sections, hollow reeds, or nesting blocks made out of untreated wood. Burrowing bees will make use of sunny, uncultivated spots in the garden and mason bees need a source of water and mud. Many bee species are attracted to weedy, untended hedgerows too.