I love beekeeping, and I owe my bees a lot; without them I would never have started my business! As I’m sure you’re aware, bees have been having a bit of a rough time of it over the last few years. Experts generally put it down to pesticides, disappearing habitat and the varroa mite (a really nasty parasite). Bees don’t just give us honey and beeswax; they pollinate about a third of our food, including summer favourites such as strawberries and tomatoes. If you fancy giving them a helping hand, read on for my top tips for bee friendly gardening.
Try to choose pollen and nectar rich plants that flower at different times of the year. These types of plants will also encourage other pollinators into your garden, such as butterflies. If you have a good-sized garden, consider planting a section with wildflowers and resist pulling up weeds, as some are very beneficial to bees and other pollinators.
There’s a full list of bee-friendly plants on the British Beekeepers Association website. Popular ones include varieties of:
Ideally, it’s best to avoid pesticides and opt for more natural pest control methods instead. However, if you do use pesticides, try to choose one that’s not harmful to bees. Check the ingredients list for the following types of neonicotinoids, which are particularly damaging: acetamiprid, thiacloprid, imidacloprid, clothiandin and thiamethoxam. Limit spraying to the evening, when bees aren’t as likely to be around.
If you can, leave some areas of grass long, to offer bees shelter when it’s raining. Alternatively, you could replace grass with clover, which bees love. (It also cuts down the time you have to spend heaving the mower around.)
Consider making or buying a bee house for solitary bees. Grow Wild has an easy to follow guide to making your own, or you could get the kids on-board to make a full bug hotel! Alternatively, Growing Obsession has some lovely ready-made ones to choose from.
Wash your jars of honey out well before putting them in the recycling. Honey from overseas can contain bacteria which can be harmful to British bees.
Bees need water as well as food, so you may want to provide them with a shallow dish to drink from, if you don’t have a bird bath.
Thinking of becoming a beekeeper yourself? Short courses are held all across the country. Taster sessions are a great way to find out if it’s for you. Your local beekeeping association should be able to point you in the right direction. Or, if you fancy hosting hives without any of the work, you could contact your local bee keeping association to see if anyone needs land to put a hive or two on.
If you don’t have a garden of your own, you can still help bees by ‘adopting’ a beehive, or helping to train a beekeeper.