Why you should plant a bee garden
The bee population is declining, but you can help save the bees with a bee garden. The UK bee population fell by 50% between 1985 and 2005 and their number has continued to drop since then. If this trend continues, it’s not just bad news for bees – it will drastically affect biodiversity and food production too. More than three quarters of the world’s food crops are dependent on bees and without pollinators, we wouldn’t have enough food.
Why are bee numbers declining?
A number of factors are contributing to the fall in the bee population, including climate change, the loss of habitat and the use of insecticides such as neonicotinoids.
The use of neonicotinoids has been restricted by the EU and UK over the last decade, but the UK government authorised ‘emergency use’ of neonicotinoids in March 2022. These pesticides affect the navigational abilities and nervous systems of bees and lead to their decline. Climate groups such as Greenpeace are campaigning against this decision and you can sign their petition here.
Create a beautiful bee garden
You can help to make up for habitat loss by making your garden bee friendly. Give them plenty of food by growing plants that are rich in nectar and pollen, such as lamb’s ear, mullein, foxglove, cornflower, poppy and lavender. Easy-to-grow herbs such as thyme, marjoram, chives, rosemary, sage and mint are also brilliant for bees and you’ll be able to use them in your cooking too.
Bees also love apple trees and hawthorn trees and when their food is sparse in spring, you can help by allowing weeds such as dandelions to grow. Bluebells and crocuses can provide food at this time of year too.
If you’re still unsure what to plant, look out for bee garden seed mixes which include a variety of wildflowers that are beneficial to pollinators. Many of these flowers are perennials that will grow back again next year, which is great for those who like minimum-fuss gardening.
Allow a corner of your garden to grow wild to provide shelter for solitary bees and leave broken upturned plant pots around to give them places to make a home too. Alternatively, you could make or buy a bug hotel, which will attract other pollinators as well as solitary bees.
Avoid using pesticides in your garden to save the bees and other insects. If you come across a tired bee, especially on hot days, you can help by offering a spoonful of sugar and water. Don’t leave sugar water lying around though or bees can head for this easy source of food instead of seeking out pollen in flowers.
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