Honey bees are still an endangered species in Britain, so give them a helping hand by creating a bee haven, even if you only have access to a window box or a few tubs. If you have a bigger space, planting in this way will help you create a pretty, traditional cottage garden with flowering trees, Spring and Autumn flowers and bright splashes of colour.
Plants bees love
For attracting bees into your garden, the Royal Horticultural Society recommend:
* Annuals such as borage, Californian poppies, cornflowers, cosmos, forget-me-nots, love-in-a-mist, heliotropes and sunflowers.
* Bienniels including French honeysuckle, hollyhocks, honesty and wallflowers.
* Perennials like catmint, dahlias, gypsophila, Jacob’s ladder, Michaelmas daisies, verbena and sea hollies.
* Bulbs, such as autumn crocus, snowdrops and hyacinths.
* Bees even like the flowers of herbs and vegetable plants, such as asparagus, mint, rosemary, sage and thyme.
* For larger and more permanent planting, trees and shrubs like almond trees, blackthorn, broom, cherry trees, box, dogwood, gooseberry, all types of currants, loganberry, horse chestnuts, raspberry, lavender, fuchsia, pear trees, rock roses, roses, sycamores and goat willow are all good choices.
To encourage other insects such as butterflies, how about planting a wild flower patch on your lawn? Use a readymade bee-friendly seed mix, or choose from clover, lesser celandine, vetch, marsh marigold, poppies, meadowsweet, valerian and meadow clary.
Bee-friendly garden seeds we love
Seedboms are seed mixes for bees. Available in a variety of different mixes for pollinating, urban bees, summer blooming flowers etc, they cost £3.50 each and are available from Cotswold Trading.
2. Eco bee friendly mix
This seed collection has been specifically chosen for its attractiveness to bees, and is available in blue or yellow versions. The blue mix contains three packets of seeds: cornflowers, love-in-a-mist and scabious. £7.95 from Annabel James.
3. Bee friendly seeds wedding favour mix
For an unusual little present for guests at weddings or parties, how about this packet of bee friendly seeds, which includes white clover, selfheal and red campion? The packet can be personalised with your choice of details, and the seeds are perennials which means your guests will remember the occasion for years to come. £1.40 each, from Wildflower Favours.
How to encourage bees into your garden
* Plant a good selection of bee-friendly plants, as above.
* Bees prefer clumps of plants in sunny locations, rather than single flowers or those in the shade.
* Be careful when using pesticides, which have contributed to the decline of the honeybee. Keep spraying to an absolute minimum, and don’t use pesticides labelled ‘harmful’ or ‘extremely dangerous’ when flowers are in full bloom.
* Bees also feed on honeydew, a sticky secretion produced by aphids such as greenflies, so remember this when spraying for greenfly. Spray in the evening after the bees have stopped flying, so that the pesticide has time to dry before the following morning, and choose a cool day if possible.
Quick bee facts:
- A hive needs 20 to 30 lb of honey to survive an average winter, but the bees generally produce much more and beekeepers harvest the excess. If it’s a very cold winter or a bad year for honey production, keepers will supplement the bees’ diet with sugar syrup.
- Bees fly about 55,000 miles to make just one pound of honey.
- Edible honeycomb over three thousand years old was found in the tombs of the Pharaohs.
- Once the honeycomb has been extracted from the hive, the beekeeper uses a machine called a spinner to get the honey out, which uses centrifugal force.
- To produce honey, bees take plant nectar and mix it with enzymes from glands in their mouth. The resulting liquid is stored in wax and gradually dehydrates to become honey.