Creating a bee friendly garden

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When we first started gardening, I was terrified of having bees in the garden. I should have written terrified in capital letters to get over to you guys what a big deal it was. I didn’t want flowers near any of the areas where we sat because if a bee went anywhere near me I freaked out and would literally run off in a panic. I could probably argue that this wasn’t an over reaction, as I had been stung as a toddler and reacted really badly, not anaphylactic shock but I had swollen up so badly that the doctors warned my parents that if I was ever stung again, they should take me to the hospital straight away, just in case. Especially if it was near my face, neck or chest. With this in mind, I’ve grown up terrified of being stung.

Unnecessarily, because what I have learned from gardening is that, truly, if you don’t threaten them, the bees aren’t interested in you. That’s 7 years of gardening now and I haven’t been stung at all, leave the bees to go about their bee business and they’ll leave you to yours 🙂

And… did you know, there are more than 200 species of bee in the UK? But generally we are all focussing on honeybees (we hear a lot around these parts about people installing hives on roof tops etc) when the honeybee is just one species of all the bees in danger, and there are just over 20 types of bumblebees. The rest are solitary bees which we aren’t making as much of a fuss about.

So, given that gardens can offer some of the most important habitats for a huge variety of the bees found in the UK I thought it would be good to talk to you guys about the changes we made to our garden, and are still making and maybe give you some hints on how you can help your local bees.

The bees LOVE the cotoneaster, it literally buzzes all day and into the evening.

The wild corner

We have a wild corner behind our shed. It’s shaded (because our garden can get baked in summer by sun, think how exhausting a lot of direct sun is for us, imagine if for the tiny bees trying to complete their days work? It is also sheltered from the wind, which is good because we can be in a wind tunnel sometimes. There are various bits and bobs “left alone” in that corner, bits of wood on the ground, upturned plant pots with cracks, gaps and holes to provide shelter etc and we are in the process of installing some “bee hotels” for the solitary bees. This spot is ideal as its shady and doesn’t get disturbed.

If you fancy installing some bee hotels, pop along to the https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/give-nature-a-home-in-your-garden/garden-activities/buildabeebandb/ website for some guidelines.

Blooms all year round

Bees are active for most of the year, not just spring, so make sure you have plenty of bee-friendly plants, with at least two in flower at any given time right through the year.

If you aren’t sure about your garden, you can test it out with the bee-friendly tool from  www.bumblebeeconservation.org  just add your plants and get a score and some useful advice.

Bee having fun on a foxglove

Choosing flowers

Think like a bee, not like a gardener. As gardeners, lots of our plant choices are about how they look, we like big blousy flowers with lots of petals but these make it hard for bees to get access to the nectar. So choose plants that make it easier for tired bees to get to the nectar , open plants with wide open blooms.

the bees love the dahlias

Again there is help on hand if you are unsure, the RHS ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ tags are helpful and you can keep an eye out in the garden or the park and watch for those plants that are already attracting bees.

Pop along to the https://www.rhs.org.uk/science/conservation-biodiversity/wildlife/plants-for-pollinators website for a handy list of plants to help you get your garden bee friendly.

Having happy bees in the garden gives me excellent models for my photography practise.

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2 Comments

  1. Great idea to get bee friendly. I’ve just got my first hive of honeybees and completed my first exam. Daunting but so important to encourage bees. Today I covered a large recently strimmed area of wilderness at the top of my garden then covered it with cardboard begged from Lidl. Idea is to spread compost on this then sow wild flowers, white clover, borage etc for the girls. June is a dire month for bees. There is literally no nectar out there for them right now (my hive drinks a litre of sugar syrup a day currently just to stay alive). If anyone is growing New Zealand flax it’s proving incredibly popular with my honeybee pollen gatherers. Balls of bright orange pollen being scooped off. Once again I LOVE your blog and have learnt so much from you over the last year. Even planted “blue” tomatoes after your experiences with them. Great recipes too. Keep it up! Annie in Belfast

  2. Ha ha ha great to hear about you trying out blue tomatoes Annie, you’ll need to let us know how you get on.

    Keeping a hive is impressive, and a lot of work. Well done you.

    We have a local apiary here which was all over the news a few years ago as the local university discovered their honey had the same antibacterial properties as Manila. That’s when I first started looking into bees. It sparked my interest.

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