This week is Bees’ Needs Week, which was created to raise awareness of how we can help our wonderful little pollinators.
My mum has always encouraged us to help the wildlife in the garden, so the problem that we’re having with the bee population made me want to step up and do more where I can. That included buying a bee hotel for my parents’ house and supporting organisations that encourage wildlife conservation projects.
My parents both volunteer for the National Trust, which includes helping with conserving our local insect population along with other wildlife. I love visiting my local NT gardens, because a) they are super beautiful and the Trust help to protect many a green space, and b) they have plenty of areas that are just perfect for bees. Yes, some of the grounds may have manicured lawns, which can be unhelpful for insects, but they do also have a lot of flowers, plants and trees just perfect for our bees. On top of that, throughout their various properties, they have wild meadows, conservation projects, species counts and they encourage kids to get involved in protecting our wildlife and green spaces.
We can’t live in a world without bees, literally, so anything we can do to help them is a positive. Anyone in any size house can help, whether you have a garden or not, as even a window box can do the trick! You don’t have to have a huge property or meadows (….but one can dream right?).
Not sure what you can do? Here are a few ideas to get you started!
GROW MORE BEE FRIENDLY FLOWERS
Foxgloves, lupins, irises, rosemary and so many more are just perfect for our gardens. Lavender is one of a huge number of bee friendly flowers and it happens to smell fabulous too. If you don’t have a lot of space then planting a herb garden on your windowsill or balcony will be a great help! Just make sure you include chives, because they go crazy for those big purple flowers, and chives go great in a big, mayonnaise-slathered potato salad. Win win! If, on the other hand, you have a lot of land, grow a few apple trees to make those bees happy. Friends of the Earth have a list of bee friendly plants and trees here or the garden centre is sure to have packets of pollinator friendly seeds to plant in your garden.
PUT UP BEE HOTELS
I’m sure you’ve seen these around (they even have some on Euston Road in the middle of London). They’re basically lots of sticks of bamboo of varying thicknesses joined together inside a wood frame. As long as you buy, or make, a good one with big enough holes for them (between 2-10mm), these can give a variety of bees a well needed home. Find out how to make one and where to put it up here.
LEAVE AREAS TO GROW WILD
Wildflower meadows and tall grassy areas are just perfect for bees to gather food. Luckily my local area is planting lots of different wildflower patches throughout the neighbourhood public spaces to help with that. You can encourage your council to do it in your area or just plant a little area in your garden yourself.
DON’T CUT THE GRASS TOO OFTEN
Something else that comes from ‘leaving areas to grow wild’ is not cutting the grass so often. As much as a newly cut lawn is aesthetically pleasing, it leaves nowhere for the bees to rest and hide so just a leave it a little longer than you would normally, or perhaps just leave a small area where you don’t mow and just leave it to grow naturally!
CUT OUT BEE-HARMING PESTICIDES
Some gardening products contain bee-harming chemicals so the easiest way to deal with this is to check what’s on the ingredient list before you buy any products for your garden. Sadly, butterflies and birds are also affected by these pesticides, so it’s a huge deal to find a more sustainable and safe option to use in our gardens.
GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO DRINK
Collecting nectar, pollinating flowers, and general flying around is thirsty work so leaving a little dish of rainwater out is super helpful for them to keep on going. Just leave some little resting places, like stones, for them to rest on while they drink, because obviously the little critters can’t swim!