As the days begin to grow longer and the warming sun once again shines across the green hills, we are able to exhale a small sign of relief. Awakening from one of the darkest of winters that many of us have faced in our lifetimes, we hopefully can begin to turn a corner on hardships we have faced and enter into a summer of healing.
Now is the time to begin preparing for growth and do everything we can to encourage fertility across the land and our local ecosystems.
Earlier this the year the government gave the green light for a bee-killing Neonicotinoid pesticides to be used in the UK (Sign the anti-petition here). With this heartbreaking news and other devastating environmental factors that have developed, it is now more important than ever that we all try our hardest to do our bit for the local wildlife. Even if thats something as small as letting a small unkept dandelion patch grow freely in your garden.
One of my favourite books that I have come across in my time as a bee keeper and one highly recommend to everyone is Sarah Wyndham Lewis's: Planting for Honeybees: Grower's Guide to Creating a Buzz. A charmingly illustrated and simply practical guide on how to help attract the humble pollinator.
I have selected a few little pointers inspired by this guide which you can follow this spring to plant for bees. I will begin with some of my personal favourites:
Wild blackberry bushes provide an absolute feast for honey bees. Well pollinated they later produce abundant blackberry crops to feed birds and other wildlife.
From the tiny lawn daisies to the abundant ox-eyes flowering profusely by the roadside in early summer, daisies are a luscious resource for bees.
The chrome yellow burst of dandelions is a joyous signal of spring. One of the most valuable plants for honeybee, dandelions give precious early-season pollen and nectar. Who would have thought the common little weedy sunshine dandelion has a 400% more sugar content than a pretty pear or plum tree! All children love to play “dandelion clocks” and each blow spreads the seeds through wind dispersal, helping provide vital forage for honey bees!
This wild climbing rose offers simple, abundant flowers in summer followed by Rose hips that feed birds, squirrels and so many other creatures and are a great source of vitamin C.
Honorable Spring mentions:
Chive / Crocus / Forget-me-not / Heather / Rosemary / Poppy / Strawberry / Sweetpea / Borage
Clematis / Wisteria
Broom / Flowering Currant / Gorse / Heather / Hebe / Lilac / Lily of the Valley Bush / Potentilla / Tree Peony
Almond / Blackthorn / Cherry / Elderflower / Willow / Hawthorn / Horse Chestnut / Lilac / Ash / Oak / Plum
Mow less & Love Weeds
Let your grass grow a little longer to encourage clover, dandelion, poppies, knapp-weed and more. If your manicured lawn is a source of pride, reserving areas to grow wild can add lovely layered textures to your garden.
In our changing climate we may find that other non-native trees suit bees better. Hot dry days can be good for bees as much of the water has evaporated from the NECTAR offering more concentrated sugars. During a hot dry spell bees may collect honey dew from a Lime tree (excellent for anti-ageing). On a humid overcast day, horse chestnut, which produces a strong flavoured honey. It's curtains drawn and flower shop shut when the rain falls however. This can cause problems and even starvation for bees.
Abundance is good
Bees like to feast on one singular type of flowering plant at a time. They will forage 100 flowers per trip and go out 20 times a day. That's 2000 flowers in a day! Which is why of course we can taste distinct honey types such as Acacia, Chestnut, Manuka and many more. So planting a NECTAR rich tree is abundance for the bees, big time!
Bees see in infrared so purple, blue and pink flowering plants, including many herbs, are winners. Reds are not so popular. This is another opportunity for children to see themselves as positive eco warriors planting neighbourhoods with herbs and providing a mutually beneficial food source.
To bee or not to bee?
Just because a plant says it's 'bee friendly' does not mean it will attract honey bees. There are only seven types of honey BEE in the world. But there are hundreds of types of bumble bee, with 37 varieties in the UK alone. However it is honey bees that are mostly responsible for pollination of vital food sources and vitamin rich medicinal plants. So double check with a quick Google search to see which bees you will provide forage for. Many ornamental flowers are more suitable for bumblebees as they can dig into the deeper NECTAR source of the flower with longer proboscis. Honey bees have short 7mm proboscis bee tongues.
Did you enjoy this blog, please let me know if you have any notes or thoughts in the comments below and let me know what you plan to plant this spring!