The numbers of bees in the UK is rapidly declining according to research from the Centre for Research on Globalization. Thanks to a combination of diseases and the loss of their natural habitat, bees are finding it harder and harder to survive. But it doesn’t have to be this way – you can do so much in your own garden to help bees proliferate.
Bees make up a large subset of animals and insects that are responsible for cross-pollinating flowers, causing it to be fertilized so it can grow and reproduce. Without these pollinators, many plants would not be able to reproduce and would, therefore, die off.
It is estimated that roughly 90 percent of wild plants and 30 percent of food crops require cross-pollination to thrive. Food crops such as apples, cucumbers, avocados, pears and peaches all require the help of bees to flourish and reproduce. Without bees to help spread pollen, this process becomes vastly reduced and many crops would end up failing.
Encouraging bees to visit your garden
In order to attract bees to your garden, you need to find the right kind of plants. Luckily, this is relatively easy as there are thousands of types of plants that bees love.
If you don’t want to be too specific, bees love general, old-fashioned English cottage garden style plants, or other plants that are native to the British Isles. Think along the lines of roses, clematis, hollyhocks, lavender and geranium all work well, as do edible herbs that flower, such as thyme, chives and borage.
If you want to be more detailed about what plants you introduce for your garden to make it bee friendly, the Royal Horticultural Society has curated a list of garden plants that are perfect for pollinators. You can download the entire list here.
Taking care of bees
Once bees are in your garden, it is important to make sure that they are catered for. Although you can plant bee-friendly plants, there is much more a gardener can do to help bees propagate. Bees are living creatures, so they’ll need to eat, drink and sleep when in the garden.
Places to sleep
Of the 250 different types of bee in the UK, the majority are solitary insects – living out their lives by themselves, far away from a hive. These solitary bees lay their eggs inside the cavities of trees, or in holes left by wood boring beetles.
To recreate this environment and provide a safe shelter for bees visiting your garden, you can create either a bee hotel or a bee block. Rodale Wellness has some great step-by-step instructions on how to make a bee hotel, so you can make your own in your backyard and encourage bees to lay their eggs in your garden.
Places to eat
Bees love to drink sugar water, as this mimics the natural nectar that they get from plants. There are plenty of ways to help bees get this sugar water out in the garden.
This video by goforgreenliving on how to create a bee sugar shack is useful, as it details how you can make a feeding hole for hungry bees with little to no effort, further encouraging them to visit your garden and help your plants thrive.
Places to drink
By adding water to a garden, we hope to attract aquatic wildlife, or allow mammals and birds to find a place to drink. But adding an aquatic element to the garden can also benefit bees.
Consider placing your watering hole in a bee-friendly area. It should have a level surface, and you also need to make sure that there is an appropriate place for bees to land. Conventional water features, like ponds or bird baths, often don’t have the necessary ‘landing pads’ to make them accessible to thirsty bees.
If you need more advice on how to encourage bees into your garden, the RHS is a good place to start. They can even tell you what kinds of bees you’re likely to see in the garden.
The RSPB also have plenty of information on how to do more for bees in your garden, which you can see here.