Bees provide us with an invaluable service by pollinating the plants we grow. Whether big or small, there are things every garden can do to help them.
One of the simplest ways to attract bees to visit your garden is by growing flowers rich in pollen and nectar – perennial plants are great, but don’t discount flowering annuals, shrubs and trees, too.
Once they start arriving, have a go at identifying the species with help from our feature on nine types of garden bee.
Follow our advice on how to attract bees and your garden will be abuzz in no time.
Grow plants with nectar and pollen
While this point might seem obvious, it’s important to grow a range of plants that will provide a continuous flowering period, especially from March to September. You should also be sure to grow plenty of single flowers – many cultivars have extra parts that make the pollen and nectar inaccessible to bees and other pollinators.
Grow ‘woolly’ plants
Wool carder bees are one of the UK’s largest solitary bees, and they get their name from their practise of collecting hairs from plant leaves and stems, in order to build the cells within their nests. The plants you can grow to provide the ‘wool’ include lambs’ ears (Stachys) and mullein (Verbascum) species.
Create bee hotels
Providing bee hotels is a great way to boost bee diversity in your garden, by attracting solitary species. Solitary bees lay their eggs in the hollow cavities, leaving a small supply of food for the larvae to eat. The larvae then hatch, pupate and emerge from the stems. Always position bee hotels in full sun. Find out how to make a bee hotel.
Make bee nests
Queen bumblebees seek out places to hibernate in autumn and early winter, often in old vole and shrew holes. They then emerge in late winter and early spring seeking a place to start a nest. You can provide a cosy, safe home for them to hibernate in by creating a bumblebee pot or nest, using a few easy-to-find materials.
Relax on weeding
It’s easy to forget that many of the plants we consider weeds actually do a brilliant job at supporting wildlife. Lawn clovers and even dandelions will attract and provide pollen and nectar for bees. As well as relaxing on your weeding, you could leave certain areas of the garden completely undisturbed and let nature take its course.
Helping tired bees
It’s not uncommon to find bumblebees at an apparent standstill appearing tired, particularly in winter or in inclement weather. To get them back on their feet, you can mix a sugar solution by mixing equal parts warm water and sugar. Place near the bee’s head in a bottle cap or something similar, and it should stick out its proboscis to drink, energise and warm up.
Bee-friendly plants for every season
- Summer: lavender, agastache, Erysimum ‘Bowles’ Mauve’, scabious, comfrey, foxgloves, cardoon, echinops
- Autumn: sedums, single-flowered dahlias, Verbena bonariensis, Japanese anemones, autumn asters, Actaea simplex
- Winter: snowdrops, winter aconites, ivy, crocuses, winter honeysuckle, hellebores, mahonia, Clematis cirrhosa