How to attract bees into your garden
The sights and sounds of the summer would never be the same without the soft buzzing of busy bees floating from flower to flower. Sadly, with a long list of threats to their species there is a real danger of irreversible damage being caused to their delicate environment. This is why it has never been so important to help bees survive by encouraging bees into your garden.
Creating a habitat for bees
Take a step towards helping bees survive by creating a habitat for bees in your own back garden. There are thousands of dedicated people in the UK who have taken it upon themselves to host bees in their own living space, and are reaping the rewards of harvesting better quality crops as well as getting delicious honey for the family. While there are bees that live socially in hives, there are also over 200 species of solitary bees which make their own small nests.
It is important to understand that solitary bees are not aggressive and do not swarm, and so should be welcomed into our gardens. These bees make individual nest cells for their larvae, which are commonly found as small tunnels in the ground, in sandy banks, crumbling mortar or in dead wood. Plants with hollow stems are also an important nesting site, so while they may be tempting to tidy away during the winter, it is important to leave these alone as they may contain little bees hibernating inside. While solitary bees to do not produce honeycomb, they are still very valuable pollinators within the garden.
You can help solitary bees by drilling holes into existing wood in your garden, which will create a new nesting site for them. This nesting site will become instrumental in the bee's lifespan, as they will occupy them for nine months, from larvae stage through to adulthood. Pollinating logs are available to purchase, which consist of tubes of wood inserted into appropriate wood housing. Solitary bees are known to be extremely loyal to their nesting sites, and so are likely carry on using the site for many generations to come.
Social bees such as the honeybee and bumblebee require larger housing for their colonies. This requires the purchase of a beehive, or to create your own beehive. There is a wealth of different hives you can choose from, so it is best to consider the space and functionality you would like for it. There are seasonal tasks that need to be completed when keeping bees in your garden, so it is also best to consider the amount of time you wish to dedicate towards beekeeping - remember you can sit back and relax during the summer as they will take care of themselves during this time.
You will need to consider whether beekeeping is safe in your household, by checking that nobody is allergic to stings. While bumblebees are generally calm, honeybees are known to be aggressive, and can swarm if disturbed. Make sure to place your hive well away from human contact; if your garden is too small, you should consider joining your nearest beekeeping association, whereby an apiary may be available for you to use. Beekeeping is a complex process, and so it is strongly advised to take a course before buying supplies.
Why are bees so important?
When you sit down to breakfast, what options are in front of you? Perhaps toast with jam or honey, grilled tomatoes, muesli or porridge, and a glass of fruit juice or coffee to wash it down... Did you know that without the helping hand of bees, countless nutritious foods that we have grown to love and rely on would be in steep decline?
As well as helping to produce three quarters of the world's most important crops that are vital to us as well as for animals, bees also directly produce valuable products such as honey, pollen, wax and propolis, which have important nutritional, craft, manufacturing and medical uses. As it currently stands, bees have an estimated economic value in the UK of over £200 million per year. Without bees, it is estimated that it would cost UK farmers a huge £1.8 billion a year to pollinate their own crops. Without their help, flowers would die out, causing an immense impact on the food chain and the balance of nature.
If you'd like to find out more ways to attract bees into your garden, make sure to read our guide 'Bee-friendly plants'