More than 85% of the world’s plant species, including many fruits and vegetables that we take for granted, rely on pollination by insects such as bees to exist, so it is little wonder Albert Einstein said “Mankind will not survive the honeybees’ disappearance for more than five years”. Sadly, the global bee population has been in decline since 2006, and according to a recent study by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 17 of the 68 species of European bumblebees are threatened with extinction. Various contributing factors include changes to agricultural techniques, leading to a decline in the number of wild flowers (the bee’s main food source), climate changes, adverse weather, disease and the use of insecticide.
1. Plant lots of local plants. Plants that are native to the area will be suited to the soil and climate, and the bees will be adapted to them.
2. Modern hybrids often lose much of their nectar and scent during the cultivation process, so are best avoided. Also avoid flowers with multiple layers of petals, or petals that form a tube, which make it difficult for the bee to reach the nectar.
3. Choose a variety of sizes, shapes and colours. Bees are not the only pollinators, and different pollinating insects are attracted to different flowers. Bees particularly like yellow, white, blue and purple flowers, and those with single rows of petals, because they have more nectar.
4. Plant in clumps. This makes the flowers easier to find, and means the insects have less distance to travel in order to pollinate.
5. Choose plants that flower throughout the Spring, Summer and Fall, so the bees are fed throughout the seasons.
6. Some of the flowers loved by bees are: asters, clover, cosmos, dahlias, foxglove, geraniums, hollyhocks, poppies, roses, sunflowers and zinnias.
7. Create a haven. Shelters such as the Kingfisher bee and insect hotel are ideal ways to encourage bees to stay in your garden.
8. Plant plenty of flowering vegetables and fruit plants such as cucumbers, squashes, melons, peppers, melons, strawberries and cherry trees.
9. Avoid pesticides and insectides.
10. Create a herb garden with flowering herbs such as mint, sage, bee balm, borage, catnip, coriander, fennel, lavender, rosemary, sage and thyme.