How To Make Your Garden Bee Friendly
This is the second of our rough guides investigating ways we can help to look after the environment. This instalment looks at one the most important of nature’s helpers, bees, and how to make your garden more bee friendly.
According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way a bee should be able to fly. That being said, these buzzy friends are quite content in doing so. Notorious pollinators of fruits, flowers and all manner of vegetables, it’s utterly important we keep our gardens as safe havens for bees.
The big problem for them however, comes from commercial farming and pesticides. Sadly the government is not doing nearly enough to stop the usage and spread of pesticides which kill bees, and have been very slow to react. The poor things are indeed in decline, so the ultimate act of solidarity with them is to make your garden a place they can enjoy.
The key to making a bee friendly garden is to consider the types of bee. There are the common honeybees, hive dwellers and collaborators. A perfect example of nature’s efficient insect colonies, these are undeniably the most loved for their delicious honey.
But then, of course, there is the larger bee – solitary, fatter, rounder and louder. The throaty humming buzz of the bumblebee is a country garden staple, and they’re ever so fluffy for pollinating flowers.
Both types of bee are in trouble right now, and both need one thing to stay happy and healthy – lots of flowers, and chemical free ones at that. But gardening is not always easy, and it’s hard to resist using a non-organic solution to problems.
The main problem for bees is pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilisers. All three make it more difficult for them to live in your garden, so avoid these as much as you can. This means finding different ways to control weeds and unwanted insects, and to fertilise your soil.
The fertiliser is easy – making your own compost is the easiest way to get around this. If you have the space, put any and all organic, non-animal product waste on the pile. It’s important to avoid animal products because then your compost pile will smell pretty bad.
Herbicides present a unique problem – we all hate dandelions invading our patios, but chemicals such as glyphosate and other toxic weed killers are probably the absolute worst thing you can ever put in your garden. They’re very harmful to insects and bees, so if you’re looking to conserve nature try to avoid it. If you need to remove weeds, get in there and do whatever is necessary to remove them by hand. As for weeds in beds – mulch it. A good bark mulch layer prevents the majority of weeds from sprouting up.
Lastly, insecticides are obviously a no-no. If you have an infestation, the best way is to introduce a predator. A great example is aphids – these breed like a disease, and a single individual can start a chain reaction, breeding asexually and relentlessly until your favourite plant is almost dead.
But, introducing ladybirds is a great antidote. Your average ladybird like to hang out in a nettle patch or shaded overgrown area, so allow a small patch go wild in your garden and they’ll arrive. Collect them in a biscuit tin until you have around 15, and release them onto the infested plant. It works wonders and once they realise food is plentiful they will eat until the infestation is gone.
There are so many ways to garden organically which will allow bees to thrive, and so many more things you can do to help. Making a bee lodge is also a great idea – hollow sticks arranged in a bundle and placed against a wall. Solitary bees will shelter there, and of course so will beetles and anything else that likes a bit of shade.
But the best thing you can do is put as many flowers as you can in your garden, which will self-seeding and grow again next year. Likely suspects such as nasturtium, cornflower, blue borage, foxglove and feverfew are just a few you can start with, but experiment by all means. It’s for the bees after all.
For more bee friendly tips, head to bumblebeeconservation.org – they have so much more to teach you, if you’re interested.