With bee numbers on a knife edge, it’s important that we all do our bit to help them out. Here, Scott Hawthorne from SkipsAndBins.com takes a look at five ways you can help them thrive from home.
In recent years, there has been an alarming decline in the numbers of pollinating insects, including various species of bee. A 2019 study by the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology found that around a third of British bees and hoverflies were in decline and, if the current trend continues, some types of bee will be lost forever. This simply cannot be allowed to happen.
At SkipsAndBins.com, we’re big supporters of the Bee Cause, an initiative led by Friends of the Earth, so we always try to do our part when highlighting the plight of our fuzzy friends. With this in mind, I thought I would share five things you can do at home that will make life easier for our bees.
Avoid using pesticides
We all want to protect our beautiful gardens and vegetable patches from nefarious pests, but many people turn to harmful pesticides to get the job done. Some of these chemicals are also deadly to our pollinators, including bees, and many experts have attributed the increase in Colony Collapse Disorder to the rise of deadlier concoctions.
Rather than spraying your garden with nasty chemicals, it’s worth looking into using natural, bee-friendly insecticides that will repel unwanted bugs but pose no problem to pollinators. For instance, some popular choices include neem oil, vinegar, Epsom salt, and even a blend of garlic, onion, and pepper, which all have anti-pest properties.
Choose bee-friendly plants
Unfortunately, bees have been losing their favoured plants for quite a while, chiefly down to the fact we now practice monocultural gardening and farming, where only a single type of plant is grown. A good example of this is the preference of many people to have a grass lawn over a mix of different flowering plants, which is not preferable for food-seeking bees.
So, be sure to make a point of planting some bee-friendly plants in your own garden. There are lots of species that bees love, including trees and shrubs like lavender, abelia, and honeysuckle, flowers like mornarda, crocuses, and phacelia, and herbs, such as chives, sage, and rosemary. You don’t even need flowerbeds to contribute, as planters and hanging baskets can be added to paved areas.
Plant for year-round bee friendliness
While adding bee-friendly plants is a great start, to really make a difference you should plan your planting to ensure there are species that bees love all year round, rather than just in the spring and summer months. This can be extra helpful, as bees need food through the whole year, and you’ll be providing them with essential nutrition.
By doing some research and planning ahead, it’s possible to design a planting schedule that will keep your garden in bloom year-round. For instance, you can cultivate lungwort in the spring, hawthorn in the summer, perennial wallflowers in the autumn, and mahonia in the winter to ensure bees have a batch of their favourites every season.
Make a bee bath out of an old container
While it’s easy to focus on what plants and flowers bees need to eat, don’t forget that they have to stay hydrated as well. Bees need a steady supply of water to be able to digest their food, help keep their colonies in order, and to feed their young. With this in mind, it’s worth making sure that your garden has a source of water they can use.
It couldn’t be easier to do this, either. Creating a bee bath can be as simple as putting out a shallow container filled with water and making sure that there is somewhere they can perch to get access. For example, you could use an old butter or margarine tub and place some rocks inside so that, when it’s filled with water, the rocks sit just above the waterline.
Revive tired bees
Have you ever noticed a grounded bee and assumed that it’s on its last legs? While in some cases you may be right, a lot of the time the little guy is tired from working so hard. In a lot of cases, the bee might just be having a rest and looking for some refreshment.
So, the next time you spot a bee on the ground, be sure to offer them a drink that will help to revive them. A simple mix of water and sugar will do the trick, and it might just give them the energy they need to be on their way again. All you have to do is mix two tablespoons of white, granulated sugar with one tablespoon of water and put it in a small container nearby.
Follow these five tips and you’ll be well on your way to doing your bit to save the bees. Hopefully, as more people realise the importance of our fuzzy friends, we’ll soon see our gardens buzzing with plenty of activity once again.