The few bright sunny days we’re experiencing see my lavender garden humming with bees. The little ones in our family following their progress from stem to stem, learning about why it’s essential we provide food for bees, and the best place to start is at home.
There’s very real concern about the massive loss of bee numbers throughout the world as this will lead to a worrying percentage of the fruit and vegetables we consume not be pollinated.
Fingers are pointed to the Varroa mite, the wide use of insecticides and a dearth of flowers whose nectar feeds the bees.
So, we all need to do our part, starting with our home gardens.
Bees are attracted yellow, violet, blue and purple flowers, and plants such as lavender, rosemary, borage and calendula offer large amounts of nectar and pollen.
White flowers are also favourites, and flowers that provide an easy landing platform – those with a single row of petals, such as cosmos, daisies, dahlias, sunflowers, asters, zinnias, even that bane of most home gardeners’ lives, the dandelion.
Aim to provide a year-round supply of nectar-rich food. Think lavender for spring and summer, for instance; big clumps of salvia throughout summer and autumn; Echinacea, dahlias and sedum in autumn, Leucospermum, Protea and Kniphofia in winter.
Where to plant?
Let’s start with the vegetable and herb gardens. Bees love the flowers of brassicas, carrots, fennel, parsley, coriander, nasturtiums mints and rosemary. Some herbs, such as sage and thyme are pollinated by bees.
Wildflowers are another good source of bee food and are ideal for planting through the home gardener’s small orchard. They will supply more food for the bees after they have done their dash with the trees’ blossoms. Various companies produce wildflower-mix seeds, and Kings Seeds a Beneficial Insects Blend, which contains untreated seeds of buckwheat, dill, Bishops Flower, parsnip, Ammi visnaga, fennel, Daucus carota, phacelia, bergamot and alyssum.
If you are serious about attracting and feeding bees, it’s best have lots of flowering plants in one place, planting them in swathes so the bees have a smorgasbord of food, moving readily from flower to flower.
Also ensure there is a source of shallow water in the garden to rehydrate thirsty bees, especially in the height of a (hopefully) dry summer.