Bees, together with all pollinating insects, are essential to the future of mankind: they are responsible for pollinating one-third of the food we eat including our favourite fruits, essential vegetables like onions and carrots, as well as enabling 90% of wild plants to thrive.
Persistent use of pesticides, climate change, and loss of habitats are putting intolerable pressures on all our bees and pollinators. A new scientific report “Widespread losses of pollinating insects in Britain” has revealed an average decline of 25% across all bees and hoverflies in Britain since 1980.
Their plight is raising awareness of the urgent need for the world to farm and garden differently. As our biodynamic kitchen gardening expert and beekeeper, Julie Moore explains, “ Their future is our future, and it’s in our hands. We are the generation that can save the bees once and for all “
As gardeners, it’s imperative not to use harmful chemical insecticides, and, for example, practice garden ‘wilding’ – leaving a small area to go wild or undisturbed in the summer months, so bumblebees can create their nests.
Building (or buy) a simple home for solitary bees is another must – every garden should have one! Solitary bees will start looking for nesting sites between March and the end of August, so now is a perfect time. Click here to download a simple step by step guide to building a solitary bee home.
How else can gardeners help bees?
Julie caught up with Heidi Herrmann, Co-founder and Trustee of the Natural Beekeeping Trust
Heidi: “The most important thing is for gardeners to consider their planting schemes and aim to provide habitats and forage sources as diverse as possible.”Do bees have a preference for any particular flower?
“Honeybees prefer open, daisy-like flowers such as cosmos, sunflowers and plants of the Asteraceae family such as Michaelmas daisies, asters etc. Verbena bonariensis is also a favourite. If you’re looking to plant a rambling rose, Rambling Rector not only produces masses of creamy white flowers, it’s attractive to honeybees too.
Julie adds: growing a wide range of plants that flower throughout the year helps ensure there are no ‘hungry-gaps.’ For example, honeybees rely heavily upon ivy for the majority of nectar they collect during the autumn months, a crucial time for bees as they build up their stores for the winter. So keep any ivy on your plot or in your garden ― the bees will love you for it! If you can, also plant some spring flowering bulbs such as crocuses in the autumn to provide an early source of food.
Are there any plants gardeners should avoid growing?
Heidi: “Avoid growing ‘double flower’ varieties as they produce less nectar than single-flowered types and are more difficult for the bees to access the pollen. F1 hybrids usually produce very little pollen, so instead opt for organic or biodynamic open-pollinated seeds.
So what is utopia for a bee?
Heidi: “Living in a cavity in a tree surrounded by either organically or biodynamically farmed land, or wild areas where Nature reigns supreme, or in an urban environment surrounded by gardens maintained either organically or biodynamically and where everyone has a consciousness of what honeybees need to thrive. That’s utopia!