This World Bee Day we’d like to acknowledge the vitally important role these fuzzy insects play in supporting the world’s biodiversity and ecosystem. So, how can your pub garden help save our bees?
All about bees
Did you know we have more than 250 different species of wild bee in the UK? It’s these wild bees, rather than honeybees, which need our help, and there are 35 species that are under threat of extinction. Some are tiny, solitary bees, others are big, furry bumblebees.
Their numbers are in real decline for several reasons which include loss of habitat, increased use of harmful pesticides and the varroa mite which spreads disease.
If this has you buzzing, read more on how you can do your bit.
Beer gardens into a BEE garden?
90% of the world’s wildflower plants and 35% of the world’s crops depend on bees and other insects to pollinate. So, what can you do with your beer garden or outside space to contribute to a solution?
The simple answer is to plant flowers that attract bees – though not all bee species will go to the same shaped flowers – long-tongued bees will go for deep flowers such as foxgloves, while short-tongued bumblebees will prefer flowers from plants such as rosemary and lavender. There are so many plants to choose from, and your local garden centre might be a good place to seek advice.
If you’re unsure, look to see which plants are attracting bees at your local garden centre – let the bees guide your purchasing!
Don’t worry if you don’t have a lot of space, there is still plenty you can do. Create a pollination station, not just for our fuzzy friends to benefit from but also butterflies, moths and bats. Pots make an ideal station and perfect for patio areas where you can grow flowers or even herbs such as oregano, mint, thyme and chives – they’re good for the bees and handy for you too as there’ll be leaves to spare as garnishes for a cheeky G&T or in a beautiful summer salad.
What more can you do?
Ideally, you’ll have a range of plants that provide pollen and nectar for as long as possible – and that means a bit of planning. You’ll perhaps be amazed at how many flowers some ivy growing over a fence can produce, and how much certain bee species will be attracted to feed on them.
- Summer: lavender, agastache, Erysimum ‘Bowles’ Mauve’, scabious, comfrey, foxgloves, cardoon, echinops
- Autumn: sedums, single-flowered dahlias, Verbena bonariensis, Japanese anemones, autumn asters, Actaea simplex
- Winter: snowdrops, winter aconites, ivy, crocuses, winter honeysuckle, hellebores, mahonia, Clematis cirrhosa
- Spring: flowering cherry, crab apple, hawthorn, bugle, daffodils, pulmonaria, sea thrift, alliums, grape hyacinth
But you could also devote an area of lawn to wildflowers or make a ‘lawn in a tub’ to grow ‘lawn weeds’ such as clovers and bird’s foot trefoil.
There’s also something to be said for letting parts of your garden run wild, as old and rotting materials can provide essential habitats for bees. Or you could invest in a ‘bee hotel’ which is ideally suited to the solitary types of bees.
A Curious Twist
Research on hops (the flowers which provide a refreshing bitterness and an astonishing array of flavours in most beers) has revealed a fascinating relationship with bees. The flowers produce very little nectar or pollen for the bee, but their hop beta acids (HBA) provide a natural pesticide that protects bees from the virus super-spreader of the bee world, the varroa mite! So maybe it isn’t such a mad idea to grow a few hop vines too?
- If you want more info and ideas, the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust has lots of advice or look up Dave Goulson’s books and/or his YouTube channel on Gardening for Bumblebees.
And let us know once your bee(r) gardens abuzzin’!