Garden Advice

How to Make a Bee-Friendly Garden

In the UK, you will rarely stumble upon a honey bee colony in the wild. Most of them have been domesticated long ago. At least we know that they are in the safe hands of dedicated beekeepers who love and take care of them.

However, here we have nearly 250 species of solitary bees. That’s right – as the name suggests, these bees do not form colonies. Usually, such bees nest in the ground or suitable cavities in trees, and sometimes even in buildings. They are the lone agents of Mother Nature who play a crucial role in a large ecosystem.

Unfortunately, the continued survival of bees is endangered due to multiple reasons, among which is the impact that human activity has on nature.

All bees are hardworking pollinators and there is plenty that you can do to make their life easier if you have a garden.

This post will be helpful to you if you:

  • Happen to be a garden owner and take care of it regularly;
  • Wonder how to create a bee-friendly garden;
  • Understand the role of bees in nature and just how important they are;
  • Care about the environment and the future of life on Earth;
  • Wonder how to attract bees to your garden.

Be careful with pesticides and insecticides

How are you supposed to attract bees to your garden if it’s poisoning them? Naturally, your garden is not going to be the most bee-friendly environment if you spray it with strong pesticides and insecticides. Such products will kill off any bees that might be present nearby and deter any potential visitors. It would be best for the bees if you avoid these products altogether.

Hopefully, making your garden bee-friendly will also make it inviting to wasps. Now, this might sound a bit scary at first, since wasps have a little bit of a bad reputation going on. But consider this: wasps are pollinators (although not as efficient as bees, since they are not as fuzzy) and ferocious predators that keep other harmful insects in check.

However, if you absolutely have to use pest control products, then here are some things that you need to consider:

  • Bacillus thuringiensis is a natural insecticide that is known to be of low toxicity when it comes to bees.
  • There are some miticides, fungicides, and herbicides that are non-toxic to bees.
  • Be cautious of products that are labelled BIO or NATURAL, as they might still be toxic to bees and other beneficial insects (like wasps).

So, ask your pest controller about bee-friendly treatments, or in case you are doing them yourself, make sure that you are using a product that is non- or low-toxic to bees.

Include bee-friendly garden plants

You can enrich your green space with a variety of bee-friendly garden flowers and plants so our loveable insect friends can thrive. Here are some examples and good practices.

Various plants with pollen and nectar

Well, nothing new under the sun, you might say, but there are some things that you need to consider when you are planting a bee-friendly garden.

For instance, you need to pick a variety of plants in order to ensure an ongoing flowering period from early spring to early autumn. You can plant:

  • Ox-eye Daisy
  • Crab Apple Trees
  • Lavender
  • Borage (Star Flower)
  • Mahonia
  • Rosemary
  • Viper’s Bugloss
  • Crocuses
  • Bluebells
  • Hawthorn

Single flowers are another necessity for bees

Sometimes bees have a hard time getting to the precious nectar and pollen because some cultivars prevent easy access with their parts. And, of course, having a wide variety of bee-friendly flowers and plants is another wonderful perk. Remember that there are hundreds of species of bees and they have different preferences.

Bee nest material plants

Since solitary bees build their own small nests, they require some materials to do so. Usually, they collect such materials from certain plants.

For example, some bees skillfully cut small pieces of leaves in order to form nest cells where their eggs will hatch. Plants with such leaves include:

  • Wisteria
  • Desmodium
  • Bauhinia
  • Buddleja
  • Good old rose bushes

Other solitary bees build their nests with hairs collected from plant stems and leaves. They are called wool carder bees and the plants they need are mullein types or Stachys (also known as lambs’ ears).

Other bee species collect resin from trees to build their nests. In case your garden doesn’t have a resin source, you can collect some from elsewhere when possible and situate it on a piece of paper in your garden under a shade.

Take it easy with the weeding

Another wonderful bee-friendly practice is to leave the weeds alone and just let them grow. There are many plants that we consider weeds, such as dandelions and lawn clovers, but they actually provide precious nectar and pollen to some bees.

So, consider not weeding too much in case you don’t have a wide variety of other bee-friendly flowers and plants in your garden. Also, think about letting some areas overgrow if there is no risk of a serious garden pest infestation.

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How to Create an Eco-Friendly Garden

Bee-friendly garden ideas and amenities

If you have a spacious garden with a wide variety of bee-friendly plants and you are not using highly toxic pesticides, then your green space is already a bee haven. From here on, we can only improve on what you already have at hand in order to build a “5-star” bee-friendly garden.

So, how about making some special bee amenities for our favourite insect friends? For example…

Comfortable resting spots

Pollinating all day long is hard work. So bees need to rest from time to time. To make a comfortable resting spot, simply pile some straw and small sticks. If you are feeling crafty, you can drill some bee-size holes in a wooden block and there you have it! You can call it the Bee Hotel!

A bee water cooler

Resting is great but bees get thirsty, too. Leaving a jar of water somewhere in the garden is fine, but you can take a few extra steps to ensure higher levels of comfort.

It would be best to take a shallow bowl and place a few pebbles in it, then add clean water. This way the bees and other pollinators will have small “islands” where they can safely land and have a fresh sip of water. This is especially helpful for bees and other tired pollinators during the hot summer days.

Make a sugary bee “energy drink”

Mix one part water with two parts white sugar and pour some of the mixture in another shallow bowl with “pebble islands”. This way, the bees can have an easily accessible source of nutrition. This will help bees that are too tired quickly restore their energy and get back to work.

Have a bee rescue kit at the ready

What’s that? A bee on the ground? Oh no! It’s time for an emergency bee rescue! It looks like the little buddy is too tired and a bit dizzy.

Simply pour some of the sugary water in a shallow bottle cap and place it in front of the bee. It will crawl to it and have a sip. After that, gently sweep the bee off the ground with a piece of paper and place it somewhere dry and safe. Soon after, the little bee will recover and get on its way.

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Takeaways

  • In the UK, there are nearly 250 species of solitary bees who live in the wild.
  • About 35% of the world’s food crops rely on bee pollinators.
  • Bees play a crucial part in large ecosystems.
  • Garden owners can easily make their green spaces more bee-friendly.
  • Plant a variety of bee-friendly plants that bloom from March to September.
  • Use insecticides and pesticides sparingly and spray them in the morning or late in the evening.

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Have you made your garden a bee-friendly place? Feel free to share your own tips or questions in the comments below!

Image source: Shutterstock / lkordela

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