7 Bee-Friendly Garden Tips – Bee Hotels, Wild Zones & Veggie Gardens
Bees are one of the most precious natural resources we have, and their decline is an issue that has global ramifications. Bees do a lot more than just produce honey for consumption – they pollinate our plants, promoting natural growth and healthiness within our environment. In fact, native bees don’t even produce honey!
Urbanisation, depletion of resources and climate change are just a few of the factors impacting the global bee population, and the fact is… without bees, the world is in trouble. But, for those of us with gardens, the power to help bees thrive is within our hands. Here are 7 Bee-friendly garden tips that you need to incorporate into your garden!
1. Bee Hotels
Not all bees live in hives – in fact, most of them don’t! Solitary bees make up 85% of the bee population and tend to nest in dead plants, holes in trees, cracks in walls and similar places. They make individual nests for their larvae.
A bee hotel is specifically designed to attract solitary bees and provide a place for them to nest. This is especially important as more and more urbanisation occurs and potential natural nesting locations for solitary bees diminish.
You can use timber, bamboo, old hoses, straves, fence palings… just about anything to create a bee hotel. You’ll just want to ensure that any materials you use are non-toxic. You’ll want to place your bee hotel a metre or so off the ground, in a warm and sunny spot with plenty of shelter.
2. Wild Zones
A bee-friendly zone, or Wild Zone, is a spot that you’ve purposely allowed to grow a little wild to be a safe space for bees to nest and forage. They can be small spaces, or large spaces and can contain everything they need to go about their business without the risk of damaging or toxic pesticides and other elements detrimental to bees. Your bee-friendly zone could include a number of flowering plants as well as a bee hotel, which will provide bees with a safe place to live and thrive.
3. Veggie Gardens
Bees and veggie gardens go hand in hand. Without bees, some of your veggies and fruits may not even get to the harvest stage, so if you want to be pulling a useable harvest from your garden, then bees are a necessity. On the flip side, a veggie garden is one of the best ways to create a safe bee-friendly zone, thus encouraging bees to nest, pollinate and thrive.
While plants such as tomatoes, strawberries, and more can benefit hugely from a healthy bee population, there are several very bee-friendly herbs, such as basil, sage and thyme, so make sure you include some herbs in your veggie patch to encourage our buzzy little friends.
4. Avoiding Insecticides
Unfortunately, many insecticides will kill bees as well as garden pests. Avoiding insecticide use altogether is the best way to ensure a healthy environment for bees to thrive in, however, that is not always possible.
As a guide, if you need to use an insecticide, then do your research. Choose an insecticide that specifically has low toxicity for bees. Avoid applying the insecticide to the flowers of your plants, and try to deploy it when bees aren’t active, such as in cooler weather or even at night.
5. Select The Right Flowering Plants
Many species of bees require a year-round source of nectar and pollen, so yearly flowering plants such as various species of Grevillea can provide plenty of nectar for bees right through the year.
Because many species of bees have different attributes and different likes, it’s important to plant a wide variety of flowering plants in your garden to cater for all the different species. Selecting flowers with a wide variety of colours and shapes will ensure you’re creating a safe space for as many bees as possible.
Some ideal flowering plants to consider are Forget Me Nots, Lavender, Nasturtiums and Salvia.
6. Include Nesting Plants
In addition to pollinating and foraging in your garden, bees will also collect materials to build their nests. Certain bees, such as the Leafcutter Bee will source these materials from the plants in your garden, while Resin Bees will source materials from trees. Ensuring you include plants that provide these nesting materials, such as rose bushes and wisteria, is also necessary.
It’s also important to note that Leafcutter Bees will cut small circular pieces out of soft leaves to create their nests, and often it can look as though a pest is attacking the plant. The worst thing you could do in this situation would be to deploy an insecticide, so be sure as to the nature of the damage to the plant leaves before doing this.
7. Strategic Planting
Where you plant your flowering plants can be just as crucial to a healthy bee-friendly garden as what you plant.
Firstly, you’ll want to ensure that you’re planting your bee-friendly plants in sunny but sheltered locations. Also, planting in “blocks” will maximise the attraction to bees. If you’re growing a veggie garden, consider placing flowering plants throughout it as well as companion plants. This will help encourage bees to investigate the garden.
Additionally, keeping a potential habitat such as a bee hotel nearby will help encourage bees to make your garden their permanent space.