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How can I help bees?
Top 5 ways to help our pollinators.
- If you have a lawn, try not mowing it in May and June … or try leaving part of your lawn unmown for this time: many lawn “weeds” like buttercups are great nectar and pollen filled food bars for bees and other pollinators.
- Make bee hotels: a simple way is to re-use a plastic drinks bottle creating a cylinder with two wide open ends and fill with bamboo canes cut so they are 1 inch/3 cm in from the end of the plastic case … sand the ends to smooth, and pack in securely with twigs and grass. Hang the hotel horizontally against a garden wall or fence. And wait for your guests to arrive.
- Grow plants that will follow each other in producing flowers rich in pollen and nectar. The nectar contains sugar they need for energy, and pollen contains protein and oils. A succession of lovely flowers will please you as well as the pollinators.
- Grow lots of different shaped flowers: bee species’ tongues vary in size, so the more the variety of flower shapes, the greater number of bee and other pollinator species you will help.
- Don’t be too tidy: for example, leave the older growth of ivy to produce flowers. Late flowering ivy is a major late source of nectar for honeybees and for bumble bee queens fattening up for winter hibernation.
What 10 plants can I grow which are good for pollinators?
Many more than 10 are good for bees and other pollinators, but here are some ideas.
- Spring flowering bulbs like snowdrop, crocus and winter aconite: these are full of nectar and pollen and queen bumblebees can rest in crocus flowers overnight when they first emerge in the spring.
- Monarda: its not called Bee Balm for no reason! And has lovely dark pink flowers for us humans. Can get mildew so grow it in full sun and make sure it is not over-crowded.
- Sedum: lots of different sedums around and all are great for bees. The Ice Plant Sedum spectabilis is a great border plant and will be cover3d with bees, hover flies and other pollinators when it is in flower mid to late summer.
- Phacelia or fiddleneck for its common name. Often said to be the plant that attracts the most bees and other pollinators, and it has pretty blue flowers for us humans.
- Lavender: try the English varieties as they are longer lasting perennials than the French lavender, which is notoriously short lived. One of the sounds and scent of summer: bees buzzing around a lavender scented bush.
- Chives: let some of your herb plant flower, and not only will you have fresh chives for your cookery, but you are also helping the bees.
- Comfrey: a wildflower but increasingly popular as a green manure plant and the bees love the flowers.
- Field speedwell: another wildflower that will be happy in your lawn if you let it be. Lovely blue flowers and attractive to bumblebees and mining bees.
- Raspberry: the flowers are great sources of nectar to bumblebees including tree bumblebees … and they pollinate the plants … so we get our raspberries. Win win …
- Mahonia: winter flowering so a great one for the garden… and full of nectar at a time when the bees are most in need.
Where can I find out more about bees and pollinators?
Your local wildlife trust will be a good starting point. And then there are lots of great individual societies with expertise on different species. Many have citizen science projects you can take part in. Fun to do and you are helping to.
- Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust: https://www.hiwwt.org.uk
- Dorset Wildlife Trust: https://www.dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk
- Bumblebee Conservation Society: https://www.bumblebeeconservation.org
- Butterfly Conservation: https://butterfly-conservation.org
- UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme: https://ukpoms.org.uk/home