Encourage Wild Bees

WILD BEES such as bumblebees and solitary bees are facing rapid decline.  Although it’s good to know that a few simple steps (see below*) that could encourage wild bees to thrive in your garden.

macro of bee and pollen

We are increasingly aware of the reduction in our wild bee population and realising the impact of this on many important food crops like apples, potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries, and green beans. About 84% of all our crop and 80% of wildflowers depend upon insect pollination.

Bee on potato blossoms

Some of the reasons for the reduction in our wild bees include the loss of so many plant species. This is partially linked to the use of herbicides and insecticides.  Also, bees need a wide range of landscapes to find their food and shelter. Landscape diversity has been depleted and bees have suffered particularly due to the loss of wildflower meadows, we have lost the vast majority of our ancient wildflower meadows between the years of 1930 1980, and their abundance of nectar-rich flowers.

*There is still a huge amount that gardeners can do to help counteract this loss and these measures will help to increase our population of wild bees.

Bee and ivy flowers.

  • Include nectar and pollen-rich flowers for every season. Some easy perennials include Lungwort and Geranium in Spring-time. Foxgloves and Ice- plants offer nectar in the Summer months. Whilst Fuchsia and Common Ivy are useful in the Autumn and Shrubby Honeysuckle is a good choice for Winter.

 

Bees nest to encourage wild bees

 

  • Create simple nesting sites using bricks, bamboo canes, or by drilling holes in wooden blocks.

 

 

  • Leave some grass uncut when you mow the lawn. Both long and short grass provide good nesting sites and will encourage different wild bees.

Dew on grass

Bees drinking from bird bath

  • Provide a water source. If not a pond, a birdbath or even a pot sunken into the ground offers a welcome drink for wild bees.

 

SUMMARY:-

Just a few simple steps can make a difference to the bee population, providing a fantastic habitat for a wide range of species throughout the year.

For more ideas about nectar and pollen-rich flowers for your garden, take a look at rhs.org.uk/perfectforpollinators

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Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s book author, nature writer, photographer and artist.

Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.

Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews - Childrens Author

Kim Mackenzy Andrews  Children’s Author
https//: www.facebook.com/KimMackenzyAndrewsChildrensAuthor
Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

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The small garden and wildlife.

The small garden and wildlife.

If you like the idea of a wildlife garden, but only have a tiny space, here are a few ideas to help:-

The small garden and wildlife

  • Consider walls where you can incorporate planting. There are many wildflowers that enjoy growing in cracks and crevices.  These include Ivy-leaved Toad-flax and Red Valerian.

Red Valerian, in particular, grows easily from walls and has tall stems. It’s a good source of nectar for bees, butterflies, and moths.

The Hummingbird Hawkmoth enjoys the nectar of Red Valerian.
The Hummingbird Hawkmoth enjoys the nectar of Red Valerian.

Violets grow easily between cracks in paving. Thyme will also happily grow through the cracks on a path. It has attractive leaves and produces pale mauve flowers that attract bees.

  • Plant a small gravel area with nectar providing plant like Scabious.  Many flowers considered suitable for rock gardens will grow well but not all offer much pollen or nectar to hungry insects and be aware that flowers with tunnel-like petals can be too long or narrow for bees to feed from.
  • Use a window box on your house or shed for flowers such as Lavender or Marjoram as these will feed butterflies. Try Night-scented Stocks and Tobacco plants to attract moths.

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Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s book author, nature writer, photographer, and artist.

Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.

Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews - Childrens Author

Kim Mackenzy Andrews  Children’s Author
https//: www.facebook.com/KimMackenzyAndrewsChildrensAuthor
Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

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Attract butterflies to your garden.

Wildlife gardeners love to attract butterflies to their gardens. This is is not difficult if you plant nectar-rich flowers.  For best results, leave some weeds growing in the garden in order to provide food plants for caterpillars.

I always allow a large patch of garlic mustard grow by the hedge because I know it is a good plant for the orange tip butterflies that frequent in my garden in the month of May.

Garlic mustard
Garlic mustard

Nectar-rich plants.

Many cottage garden plants are nectar-rich and suitable as they have simple flowers making it easy for butterflies to reach the nectar.  Ice-plants, verbena, and scabious are all good choices.  I enjoy seeing the large white butterflies drinking the nectar from bluebells in my garden.

Attract butterflies to your garden
Bluebells in my garden.

 

Butterfly Plants for All Seasons

Suitable Spring flowers include:- sweet rocket, aubretia, and primroses.

Whilst in Summer there are many more flowers to choose from such a lavender, buddleia, red valerian, knapweed, hebe, catmint, thyme, and heliotrope.

In the Autumn months, ice-plants, scabious and michaelmas daisies will do well and are loved by butterflies.

Caterpillar Food Plants

It is important to remember to leave some weeds as food plants for caterpillars. These include:- different types of grasses such as false brome, cocksfoot, and Yorkshire fog – enjoyed by meadow brown, hedge brown, marbled white and large skipper caterpillars.

Caterpillar

Large and small white butterfly caterpillars feed on wild and cultivated cabbages.

 

Green-veined whites and orange tips caterpillars will consume ladys’ smock and garlic mustard.  Brimstone caterpillars feed on both alder and purging buckthorn.  Birdsfoot trefoil is the favourite of the common blue caterpillar and the painted lady caterpillar feed on different types of thistle.

Attract butterflies to your garden

Whichever weeds are growing naturally in your garden- consider leaving patches growing deliberately between your chosen flowering plants.  A weed is only such called if it is unwanted. But if managed and not allowed to overtake the other plants then it should be fine. Many so-called weeds can be very attractive plants and are certainly attractive to butterflies.

I have left the nettles at the bottom of my garden but mown path between them because many butterflies lay their eggs here.

Attract butterflies to your garden
A path through the nettles in my garden.

Moths

Don’t forget the moths!

These are evening creatures and will be attracted by night scented stocks, evening primrose, tobacco plants and honeysuckle.

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Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s book author, nature writer, photographer, and artist.

Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.

Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews - Childrens Author

Kim Mackenzy Andrews  Children’s Author
https//: www.facebook.com/KimMackenzyAndrewsChildrensAuthor
Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

 *PARENTS*    – Get your FREE play with nature activity ideas here.

 

Wildlife Gardening- first things first.

 

Begin by considering the structural components of your garden. The trees and hedges should be native if possible- although other species can be good for wildlife.

Wildlife Gardening- first things first.

Native trees in the U.K. include:- Alder, Ash, Aspen, Birch, Bird cherry & Wild cherry, Crab-apple, Field maple, Hazel, Holly, Juniper, Oak, Scot’s pine, Rowan, Yew, Whitebeam, Willow and Wych Elm.

In my garden, I am fortunate to have an established Field Maple

and a miniature Crab-apple trees.Wildlife Gardening- first things first.

Wildlife Gardening- first things first.

Native hedges to choose from include:- Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Wild rose, Holly, Hazel and Elder.  Also, some native shrubs to consider:- Alder buckthorn, Blackthorn, Broom, Buckthorn, Dog-rose, Dogwood, Elder, Guelder-rose, Hawthorn and Spindle.

Then consider the situation of a log pile, in the shade, if at all possible. These will feed beetles and provide shelter for many other animals including frogs and toads. Hedgehogs also use log piles for hibernation.

I have used fallen logs as retaining walls for flowerbeds.Wildlife Gardening- first things first.

And logs cut to size make great wooden stools and tables.Wildlife Gardening- first things first.

 

Think about the direction of the sun in your garden throughout the summer and winter to make the best use of sunny and shady areas. If your garden is small this is not a barrier to wildlife gardening, make use of walls, roofs, and other structures to add to your space.

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Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s author, nature writer, photographer, and artist.

Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.

Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews - Childrens Author

Kim Mackenzy Andrews  Children’s Author
https//: www.facebook.com/KimMackenzyAndrewsChildrensAuthor
Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

 *PARENTS*    – Get your FREE play with nature activity ideas here.