Today is World Bee Day! Bees are really important because we need them to pollinate plants including a lot of the food we eat. But bee numbers are going down and they need help! Here are some things that we have done and you can do to help bees.
Flowers for bees
Flowers are really important for bees because they need them to get pollen and nectar for food. One of the most important things you can do to help bees is plant lots of bee-friendly flowers.
It’s especially important to make sure you’ve got flowers growing for as much of the year as possible so bees can find enough food all year round.
Some of the bee-friendly flowers we’ve planted this year are crocuses, sunflowers, cornflowers, allium, foxgloves, snapdragons, hollyhocks, cosmos, aster and beans. We’ve also made a big flowerbed full of lavender and planted thyme in old pallets.
I’ve taken cuttings from flowering currant, rosemary, honeysuckle, penstemon and blackthorn to try and grow more plants that bees like.
A good way to get more bee friendly plants for your garden is to watch to see how many bees come to different plants then ask if you can take cuttings or collect seeds.
Lots of wildflowers are good for bees. We’ve planted some flowerbeds full of wildflowers in our garden to help bees and other wildlife. Another way to help bees is to leave wildflowers like dandelions, green alkanet, buttercups and dead nettles that grow by themselves instead of weeding them out. When we were weeding our seed trays, I rescued all the red dead nettles and put them in a pot and they look lovely.
At the end of No Mow May, you can take part in the Every Flower Counts survey to find out how many bees your lawn can feed. It’s even better to begin in spring and let part of your lawn grow long and not mow it all summer. Last year, the flowers we got growing in our front lawn included bird’s foot trefoil, tufted vetch, common vetch, lady’s mantle, wood avens, bindweed, red clover, white clover, buttercups, groundsel, dandelions, daisies, cat’s ear, mouse ear hawkweed, lesser trefoil, fox and cubs and Welsh poppies. Lots of those flowers are really good for bees.
Bees need water to drink, especially in the summer when it’s hot and dry. You can help by making a bee drinking station. You have to find a tray or shallow bowl and put stones in it for bees to land on to drink. Then you need to put it somewhere sunny in your garden, fill it with water and keep it filled up.
Homes for bees
Another way to help bees is to build a bee house. You need bean poles or special bee tubes about 15cm long or you can drill holes in a block of wood. The tubes or holes need to be between 4mm and 10mm wide and it’s good to have lots of different sizes so different bees can use them. You have to build a box with a roof to keep it dry and fill it with the tubes. Then you need to put it up at least 1m high in a sunny place facing east or southeast. Solitary bees like red mason bees and leaf-cutter bees might come and use a bee house like this to nest in.
Some chemicals like pesticides can be extremely bad for bees and can kill them! So you can help bees and other wildlife by making sure you don’t use chemicals like pesticides and weed killers in your garden.
When you’re shopping you can make sure the food you buy is organic so it’s grown in a way which doesn’t involve chemicals, which can help bees. We get organic veg boxes from Riverford.
A good way to learn about bees and help to find out how they’re doing is to take part in bee surveys.
The UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme has a survey called a Flower-Insect Timed Count (FIT Count). It helps find out how numbers of pollinators are changing. You have to find a patch of flowers on a sunny day in between April and September. You need to put down a 50cm by 50cm quadrat (square) and count how many open flowers are in it. Then you have to watch it for 10 minutes and count the pollinators that come to it. You can do this however many times you want to.
You can help bees too if you want!