There are more than 200 different species of bee found in the UK – and it is no secret that their population numbers are declining.
Different types of bee include bumblebees, honey bees and solitary/masonry bees. All of them play a key role in the pollination of commercial fruit, nut and vegetable crops across the world. Without bees, these crops would have to be pollinated through other (very costly) means, ultimately increasing the price of our supermarket fruit and vegetables.
The plight of bees is largely due to changes in the UK’s countryside and agriculture over recent decades. Areas which were once covered with wildflower meadows have now been destroyed to make way for more agricultural activity.
Bees, especially bumblebees, pollinate wildflowers, allowing the flowers to reproduce and produce seeds. The wildflowers themselves are the start of a very complex food chain that helps to sustain birds, mammals and other insects – if the bumblebee population declines so will the wildflowers – and vice versa – affecting thousands of other species of wildlife.
Fortunately, efforts are now being made to help farmers provide bees with areas rich in flowers and nesting sites. If you’re a farmer or landowner, find out how you can help here.
Gardening for bees
We can all make a difference to encourage bees into our garden – even if you’re a beginner gardener or have a small garden, it doesn’t matter, just planting one flower can help!
The RHS’s website has a great list of wild and garden plants that bees love. Generally, bees are most attracted to purple flowers because that colour is most visible to them. It is also important to make sure the flowers you choose are not too narrow or tunnel-like, otherwise the bee will not be able to get to the centre.
The use of pesticides can be harmful to bees – it is better to use biological control or non-pesticide, organic treatments where possible.
Flowers which we consider to be weeds such as dandelions are actually firm favourites amongst bees, so leaving one or two in your garden won’t hurt!
You can also make a nesting site in your garden. This is particularly beneficial to masonry bees who like to nest alone in small holes and tunnels. Small tubes placed around the garden or holes drilled into pieces of wood are great ways to create a home.
Share with us how you’re helping bees in your garden!