There is an important reason why our countryside of rolling emerald hills and wild flowers is loved by so many - and we can put it all down to the humble bee, nature's most dedicated gardener. Busy working throughout the day, bees collect nectar and pollen from bee-friendly plants. There are several ways you can attract bees into your garden this spring and summer that are simple, affordable and overwhelmingly good for the environment.
Which plants attract bees?
In the UK, gardens cover an estimated one million acres, providing a huge opportunity for us to help bees survive. We can use this space efficiently to plant a nutritional variety of bee-friendly plants that are rich in pollen or nectar, and ideally both. Nectar provides bees with sugars and acts as an important energy source, while pollen provides vital proteins and oils. Both of these are all that is needed to help bees survive by making sure their queen has enough nutrients to birth larvae for the next generation of bees. Some great plants for bees are:
- Geranium robertianum
- Geranium 'Brookside'
- Geranium himalayense
- Geranium phaeum
As a general rule, it is the native, traditional ‘cottage’ plants which are most bee-friendly; and British wild flowers are also a fantastic way to attract bees to your garden. It is advised that we use bee-friendly plants of year round interest, to supply a constant source of food for late foraging bees. Clump plants together so that bees have less distance to travel while foraging for food.
Plants to avoid
Flowers which have long, tunnel-like petals can be too long or too narrow to allow bees to feed from them. Many highly cultivated plants which we know and love were bred by horticulturalists for their aesthetic, frilly appearances, and sadly do not offer bees pollen or nectar to feed from. Examples of these are pansies, petunias, impatiens, double begonias and even hydrangea.
If you must use pesticides on your crops, there are measures you can take to help bees survive. Do not use sprays that are labelled ‘harmful’, ‘dangerous’ or ‘high risk’ to bees if crops are in full or part bloom. Common pesticides which contain neonicotinoids (also known as neonics), are extremely harmful to bees and should be avoided at all costs. Do not allow pesticide to drift into nearby bee hives or into hedgerows and fields where bees may be looking for food or nesting. Do make sure to spray in the evening when bees have stopped collecting nectar, which allows several hours for the pesticide to dry before bees come out to work again the day time. Above all, do not spray unless you have to.Read our guide 'How to attract bees into your garden'