How to attract bees to your garden

Posted: 1st Jul 2019

Most of us know that these lovely insects are absolutely essential to the maintenance of our environment.

Bees are important

In fact, some experts estimate that roughly one mouthful in every three consumed by human beings consists of food that directly or indirectly, originally needed to be pollinated.

As a result, it is the cause of some distress that bee populations in the UK have been in decline over recent years. The exact reasons for that are hotly disputed but there is some evidence that things such as pesticides and the destruction of the natural habitat have been major contributory factors.

So, it’s in all of our interests to do more to help by attracting bees to our gardens. Not only will that lead to better pollination of your own plants but it will also play a part in improving our overall natural world.

What bees need to thrive

There is no great mystery here. To prosper, bees require:

  • a food source – meaning nectar and pollen provided by flowers;
  • water;
  • for many species, a nest.

Anything you can do to provide those things might encourage bees into your garden.

Plants

Almost any flowering plants will be extremely useful for bees. Some though are richer in pollen and nectar than others. So, if you can, consider:

  • selecting plants that are known to be highly attractive to pollinating insects. The Royal Horticultural Society’s website has a list of over 3000 plants tagged as such;
  • try to leave at least one part of your garden for a traditional herbaceous border with plants such as lavender and poppies. Bees love foraging in slightly more unkempt flowerbeds;
  • do not use pesticides on or near your flowering plants. In fact, avoid them totally if at all possible, researching and using natural methods instead.

Water

This is one of the easiest things to put in place.

If you have a pond or other large water display in your garden then that will be fine. If not, you can easily pick up something for a small amount of money at your local garden centre – it can be a very modest affair and doesn’t have to try and replicate the fountains at Versailles!

You could, if you wish, go for an entirely DIY solution, making a tiny birdbath or other water source from old receptacles that bees can use.

Nests

Many species of bee make nests though some, called “solitary bees”, typically don’t and will simply lay their eggs underground.

However, you can assist by providing a nest ready for their easy occupation.

There are a number of ways of doing this but one of the simplest is by bundling some bamboo or other tubes loosely together and then making sure they are protected from the rain and the worst of the elements. They should also be located close to plenty of flowering plants.

You can find some excellent advice online as to how to go about this.

Don’t be too disappointed if this doesn’t work, as bees can be unpredictable about where they build their nests. It’s also important that you attend to hygiene and the cleaning of the nests at the end of the season.

Even so, for a very limited amount of effort and virtually zero cost, you may help encourage bees into your garden by offering them accommodation.

Conclusion

We all know the downside of human intervention when it causes the destruction of natural habitats. However, there are also vast numbers of examples around the world, where humans are assisting to maintain and restore the environment. These, unfortunately, don’t always receive the same publicity.

You can make your own contribution to this story though by taking some of the above steps. Good luck and enjoy your bees!