The humble bumblebee is a very busy insect, but one that is under the growing threat of vanishing from our lives and gardens for good! To keep the bees buzzing we’ve put together ways we can look out for the hard workers that make tasty honey and do an incredible job of pollinating our plants.
Bees have been around for 30 million years and they are the only insect in the world that produce food that humans can eat. And very delicious food at that! They communicate with each other through unique bee dances and recognise their hive mates through smell. Their wings beat an unbelievable 190 times a minute, that’s faster than the human eye can see!
There are huge numbers of bees and their hives that are transported all over the world to follow the seasons and pollinate the plants that grow our food. At least 1/3 of the plants we eat have been pollinated by the busy bees. The honey they produce will taste differently depending on what plants they have been pollinating. In New Zealand, the Manuka honey is claimed to have healing properties, a distinctive taste and is made by bees who are only getting their nectar from the Manuka plant.
Not all bees live in hives and many of the wild bees we have in the UK are solitary insects, that roam from gardens and hedgerows. You will commonly see them in the summertime in your cottages, and at beekeeping centres and apiaries. The mason bee lives in a self-constructed nest, making varied structures, out of all sorts of materials. They are self-sufficient and provide for their young on their own. The most common bees in the UK are the white-tailed bumblebee, red-tailed bumblebee, honeybee, and the early bumblebee.
We want to keep the bees buzzing and doing what they do best – pollinating and making scrumptious honey. So here are a few ways you can help them.
Bug hotels, a holiday for Bees
Bug hotels are easy to make and a lot of the materials you will need can be found in your garden or shed. It isn’t possible to make your hotel exclusive to just one type of guest, it will be more of a bug party than a spot for an invite-only, bees banquet.
The bug hotel can be as simple or as glamorous and you decide. You will need a selection of different materials to make it comfortable for every guest. You could use a wooden box or old pot filled with twigs, woodchip, bamboo, bark, moss or straw.
Plants all have a different level of nectar and pollen they produce, many of the plants in gardens aren’t the best for bees as they have been bred for the look of them rather than the nutrition they provide the insects with.
Do your bit to help the wildlife, plant them a colourful and edible garden, try to have at least two bee friendly plants for each flowering period. Bees like to be in the sun, away from strong winds, so when you are planting try and consider this, if possible.
There is a range of nectar-rich and beautiful plants to choose from. Here are some of our favourites:
Spring – Summer
Autumn – Winter
Vegetables, along with bedding plants will attract bees, so if you needed another reason to try and grow your own then here it is.
A weed is defined as a wild plant growing where it is not wanted. Dandelions and daisies are wanted by the bees as they are rich in nectar. So, relax, and don’t be so eager to mow your lawn this Sunday.
Just like us, when it’s hot or we’ve just finished a meal, we like to have a drink. Put out a shallow dish of water with rocks to create a safe landing spot. This is easy and simple to do, where ever you go, whether you are at home or on your glamping UK holidays don’t forget the bees.
What to avoid
Some flower heads have long, thin tunnels which makes it difficult for bees to reach the nectar.
The intent of pesticides is to reduce or kills bugs, this can include bees too. Be careful when using them, especially if you have pets as they can be harmful to your furry friend too. There are plenty of natural pesticides that are insect and animal-friendly such as oil spray, garlic spray and chilli pepper spray.