Bee Friendly - By Holly Short

In the first of our green-fingered blogs, Holly from Grow Smiles gives us some brilliant advice on how we can help our yellow and black, furry, friends.

Why are bees important?

Approximately 80% of all flowering plants are pollinated primarily by bees as well as other insects and animals. Our food is reliant on this pollination as it provides the fruit and vegetables we eat as well as the crop to feed livestock. According to the Healthy Bees Plan 2030, bee crop pollination brings around £600 million per year to England and Wales based on crop pollination. Of course it also generates invaluable food for wildlife. Bees are an integral part of our eco system and without them we would be in big trouble.

Bees are in danger across the world with rapidly decreasing numbers. There are two main reasons – habitat loss due to urbanisation and intensive farming methods and the use of pesticides.

What can I do?

There are lots of easy way for you to use your garden to provide the bees with food and shelter. Learn to love your bees, find out about them – how to identify the different types, how they behave and what they need. By looking after the bees you will also be looking after other pollinators like butterflies.

Grow bee friendly flowers and plants.

Bees are around for most of the year, some emerge from hibernation as early as February and others are still flying around in November. You may seem them even earlier or later if the weather is mild. I have seen big fluffy, sleepy Queen bees on sunny days in January looking for nectar. So try to make sure that they have some form of food all year round. They need nectar to give them energy to fly and find nests and pollen to feed their bee grubs. You can often see the pollen stuck to their back legs so that they can take it back to the hive – see our photos at the end of the article.

The tricky times for bees are late Winter into early Summer and Autumn, when flowers are not so profilic as they are in full Summer. Plant bulbs in Autumn to provide flowers for the bees in these sparse times – Snowdrops, Winter Aconite, Hyacinths, Crocus, Fritillaria and Alliums. Look to include Autumn flowers plants in your garden such as Asters and Japanese Anenome. Ivy provides a wonderful source of nectar and pollen during the Winter months. Have a look at this wonderful seasonal guide created by Friends of the Earth.

Give them shelter

If you have space and can cope with a bit of wild in your garden – leave a patch of lawn uncut. Bees love sheltering in Clover, Dandelions and long grass. If you can’t do that, why not build a bee hotel? It doesn’t have to be complicated, just a box or even on old plastic drinks bottle with hollow branches, pine cones, drilled out logs – other pollinating insects will love it too. The Bee Friendly Trust have written a lovely, simple guide to help you build a bee hotel.

Learn to love your bees

Watching and listening to bees is mesmerising. In early Summer my garden is full of Alliums and in early Autumn, Asters – the sound of the buzzing is amazing and there are so many different types of bees to see. The Bumble Bee Conservation has a great tool to help you first identify the different types and then to learn about all of their unique habits. They also do some great posters and pocket books. Once you become more involved and connected with the bees, you will naturally want to look after them – which can only be good for the bees!

Don’t use or support the use of chemicals

Learn how to Grow Green – harness the power of nature to grow better plants without harming the environment. Our Grow Green article can help you – it’s updated with new things we learn – so very frequently. Also look at what’s happening in the world around you, at the big picture. For example, in 2021 the UK government reversed recently made decisions put in place to protect our bees and wildlife – read more at the Wild Life & Countryside Link. Stand up for our bees. (Update June 2021 – this decision has once again been reversed – so our bees are now more protected. It is still always worth keeping an eye on legislations as clearly they can be changed very quickly).

You will experience so much joy by loving and protecting the bees – new found buzzy friends that do so much good for our plant, not to mention beautiful flowers, plants and gardens. Our plant list highlights the plants we have that are bee friendly.

Bee friendly – Make the World a Better Place

By Holly Short

[email protected]

Grow Smiles, Church Farm, Betchworth, RH3 7DH