Our biodiversity is in decline. Often the news can be overwhelming and worrying. Many of our pollinators are also in decline. As they are vital for our food supply, people are getting really worried. The use of pesticides and the shortage of flowers are often regarded as contributors to this decline. Our fields and meadows no longer provide the abundance of flowers. All doom and gloom? No! Certainly not as everyone can make a difference and we can all do our bit to help our bees.
At home, i was surprised to see how quickly bees seem to discover my garden once you have met their requirements. Let’s have a look at some of the requirements:
One of the key factors is providing a rich variety of flowering plants. As some bees have long tongues and others quite short, it is important to take this into account. The smaller bees tend to have shorter tongues so they will not visit flowers where nectar is beyond their reach. Instead, these solitary bees will forage on plants like corn marigold. Other plants do not offer much nectar but predominantly pollen such as the Verbascum species. When creating a bee-friendly garden, please make sure you have flowers all year round as some species of bees are more active in spring while other species are abundant in summer and bumblebees are sometimes still seen in November.
As many of our gardens are so very tidy, the number of natural nesting sites is limited. We can however help our bees by creating artificial nesting sites: a bee home. It is really quite easy to build a bee house. I had an old dying cherry tree which had to be cut. I used parts of the tree to create my bee houses. The holes i have drilled vary between 3mm to 8mm. Another possibility is hanging a tin can filled with straws or fill the can with hollow stems of teasel, bramble or bamboo. Please select south-facing positions and hang them at 1.5 metre height or above. All bee houses should be placed in a sunny positions. It is important to remember that when you drill these holes, the entrances must be smooth so please make sure there are no splinters. Otherwise the bees will not use them.
You will be rewarded and you will spend more time in your garden or balcony studying the fascinating lives of bees. Don’t be afraid, the bees will not sting. Here is a photo of a solitary bee collecting pollen on chicory
Here an example of a new large bee house.
It goes without saying that not only bees will benefit from the abundance of flowers. Providing lots of pollen and nectar will attract more insects such as this lovely comma (Polygonia c-album). Last but not least: Please do not use pesticides, there are alternatives.