We have become much more aware in recent years of how delicate the whole ecosystem is. Decades of pesticides and chemicals use as well as bad practices within horticulture and farming has led to a crisis in bee and pollinator numbers.
We can help revive, then sustain the insect population by growing more bees and butterfly plants in our gardens.
Saying that, in the past I personally haven’t chosen specific bees and butterfly plants, but have always had a wealth of these lovely vital creatures in my gardens.
There are so many gorgeous, colourful and pollen rich flowers that are easy to grow to make your garden a bee and butterfly haven.
And did you know, for those of you with a musical bent that bees hum in the key of C? No wonder we find their gentle buzz a source of relaxation. Well I do anyway and I’m sure many of you will agree.
I find the gentle buzz of a busy little bee very calming and soothing, particularly on a hot summer’s day. When I have a few moments to sit and enjoy my garden I like nothing more than to listen to the bees and the birds singing. It’s very harmonious music.
Bees and Butterfly Plants
Aim for a large variety of plants that have different shapes of flowers and which produce flowers over long periods. Plant a seasonally rich border that blooms from early spring to late summer and throughout the winter.
Bumblebee species prefer deep flowers such as foxglove, snapdragons, and honeysuckle. The bumblebee has different length tongues that have adapted to feed from these deeper flowers.
Plants that produce tall spires with dozens of flowers on them are very popular with bees as they have lots of nectar in one place. For them it’s like going to a favourite “all you can eat” restaurant that has everything they love on the menu…they’re going to stay on that spire for quite a while. Buzzing from one delicious bowl of nectar to the next.
Bees also like the colour blue…they are drawn to blue flowers first and foremost. So they love lavender, hardy geranium and echinops. Basically though, where there are flowers in plentiful supply all year round, there will be bees, butterflies and other important pollinators.
Double or multi-petalled blooms are difficult for bees and pollinators to access.
Lovely as these flowers are they are not ideal for our pollinator population. They don’t produce much pollen or nectar.
Open flowered types are ideal, such as:
- Single dahlia
- Hardy geranium
- Single clematis varieties
- Viburnum Bonariensis
are all popular too with insects and gardeners. There are far to many to list here, these are just an example of flowers that bees and butterflies love and thrive on. Shop here for plants for bees
Let’s not forget the vegetable plot, “grow your own” has taken on a life of it’s own, and rightly so. Many of the vegetables we grow are a magnet for insects and bees. The good thing about vegetable flowers is that mostly they are open type blooms which give easy access to pollen and nectar. Pollination occurs naturally out in a veg garden and therefore saves us a job.
- Pumpkins and Squash
- Soft Fruits
Plant Native Wildflowers
Native plants and native insects have inevitably evolved alongside each other and are therefore suited to each other. Their mutual association is to the plants and the insects benefit. Some of our more rare species tend to favour native wildflowers. So we do need to keep our wildflowers too. As I mentioned at the start of this article our ecosystem is delicate and its needs all the players to be healthy and abundant in order to survive.
There are other benefits to growing wildflowers too. They are easy to grow and maintain, and are usually resistant to pests because they have been around long enough to be strong against pests and disease.
I always think that daisies, the original daisies, are far stronger and robust than some of the débutante, fancy hybrids.
Shrubs and Trees for Bees
Some of our favourite trees and shrubs are also perfect for bees and many other pollinators as they provide masses of flowers in one place. These are really important for winter food too. Ivy for example has lots of flowers in the winter months that bees can feed on.
Choose a variety of seasonal flowering trees to provide nectar and pollen all year if possible.
Plant hedges too in lieu of fences or walls. An indigenous hedge becomes home to hundreds of insects and small animals providing food and shelter as well as nesting sites for birds. Leave part or all of the hedge as late as possible before trimming to allow pollinators to find plenty of food.
- Wild cherry
- Wild plum
Make a Bug Hotel
Build insect houses in your garden to provide nesting sites for solitary bees and insects. Different bee species need different habitats.
You can make your own simple bug house from old pieces of wood, Garden canes cut up, fir cones etc or you can buy a ready-made bug house. Fix bee boxes in a south-facing spot but not in direct sunlight. The entrance must point downwards so that rain can’t get in.
Making bug houses is a great, fun project for teaching children about the importance of all our bees and insects. The delight on a child’s face when they discover butterflies, moths, beetles and bees is worth the time you spend helping to find them
Go Wild in the Garden
Create a wild patch in your garden. Most gardeners traditionally prefer a lawn that is regularly maintained and looks neat and tidy. But if you can bear to leave a corner to grow wild, then this will help the insect population. Lawn weeds such as daisies, buttercups, dandelions and clover are perfect plants for pollinators, particularly in early spring when there is little else around for bees. As such you will find more of them coming to these wild areas.
Also, nettles are a big draw for butterflies as food, habitat and for breeding.
Common insecticides that contain neonicotinoids kill bees. These are still approved for home and garden use and are available from most garden centres and DIY shops. Read the labels and avoid them. For information on pesticides to avoid click here.
Use eco friendly pest treatment wherever possible. Or make your own.
Nemotodes are eco friendly and therefore do not impact on our friendly insects and pollinators.
So please, let’s grow more bees and butterfly plants, because quite simply a world without these valuable insects doesn’t bear contemplating. Shop here for bees and butterfly plants
Without them we would not survive very long. Let’s save our bees.
There would be no fresh crops of food, no fruit or vegetables. The bird and animal population would soon diminish as well.
As I look round my garden now, in early evening there are still many bees and pretty butterflies that are all vying for the choice flowers in which to find the nectar that they need. It’s so very satisfying to know that I am doing my bit for wildlife and as such for the planet.
I hope that you too find something here to inspire you to plant your garden to attract more pollinators.
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