I think that the sound of happy bees buzzing in a garden full of flowers is one of the most comforting sounds that there is. As spring turns into summer, the garden becomes a hive (forgive the pun) of activity as nature produces some of her most beautiful blooms. Bees are essential to pollinate flowers and we as human beings need them as part of our food chain. Without bees, the pollination of plants in our backyards and in huge commercial operations would cease to exist. Apis mellifera (or the honey bee) as they are known are the commercial honey bee used to pollinate our crops and provide our honey. Our flower and veggie gardens rely on these pollinators.
Bees are under threat from GMO modified crops, dangerous viruses and pesticides. Threatened with extinction, these beautiful and hardworking insects must be protected and encouraged to thrive to ensure the survival of the human race. Without bees to pollinate, our world would cease to exist. It is extremely critical that we care for these creatures. Making our gardens into a sanctuary for the bees is a way to ensure the survival of these beautiful creatures. Bees also produce one of nature’s sweetest gifts – honey. Now you don’t have to have a hive of your own, but those people in your community who do will appreciate your bees foraging for nectar. Honey produced from different flowering plants have their own unique flavours. Honey as a health food and a sweet treat from nature is also beneficial to human beings.
So how do we encourage bees to our garden? Well, the answer is pretty simple. Flowers and lots of them. Bees like colour too, favouring blue and yellow flowers. Try some of the following in either your garden beds or in pots.
Annuals: those plants which we enjoy planting each year for a colourful display. Spilling out of pots and framing our garden borders. Try alyssum, cosmos, Queen Anne’s Lace, calendula and phacelia just to name a few. Most of these have a gorgeous fragrance as well.
Perennials: daisies, salvias and penstemons
Herbs: When in flower, lavender, rosemary, oregano, borage, basil, dill and parsley attract bees. Herb gardens generally smell quite delightful and bees enjoy these plants. Herbs also enhance our wellbeing and culinary efforts so the rewards are numerous.
Trees and Shrubs: eucalypts, grevillea, bottle brushes, buddleia, abulia and tea tree attract bees.
When planting out your garden to attract pollinators it is also a good idea to pick plants which are suitable to the growing conditions in your area. Also choose varieties which flower across the seasons. The longer the flowering period, the longer bees will be attracted to your garden.
When harvesting vegetables like carrots, leave a few to create a flower head full of nectar and pollen. Bees prefer blue and yellow flowers, so factor these into your plant selection. Flowering plants will not just attract bees, they will also attract other beneficial insects which are the natural predators of pests like aphids. Bees need water like the rest of us human beings, so leaving out a shallow dish of water filled with pebbles is an option. Bees can’t swim, so they drown if it is too deep. Also leaving out sugared water for them is harmful .
Recently native bees have become popular, and building ‘hotels’ to attract them has become an emerging trend. These are usually made from hollow twigs and branches and look quite decorative. However, bees are quite happy to find a place to nest in a hollow in any tree. The plants that attract them are Abelia, Buddleja (butterfly bush), Callistemon (bottle brush), Daisies, Eucalyptus and Angaphora (gum trees), Grevillea (spider flower), Lavandula (lavender), Leptospermum (tea tree) Melaleuca (honey myrtle) and Westringia (native rosemary)
Although most pollination is done by the commercial honey bees, native bees are now becoming an option for large crop suppliers to consider as the protection of bees is becoming essential.
I hope you will be encouraged to plant more ‘bee attracting plants’ this year.