Let your grass grow for wild bees
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and The Wildlife Trusts’ Bee Creative in the Garden! campaign has had a fantastic response from gardeners who have created havens for wild bees.
Polls revealed that planting foxgloves and letting the lawn grow long were the favourites.
Questions asked in the survey were:
Which of these bee-friendly plants would you most like to plant in your garden? (752 votes)
- 47% – foxglove
- 25% – sunflower
- 16% – borage
- 12% – single dahlias
Which of these actions are you most likely to do to help wild bees? (342 votes)
- 60% – let your lawn grow long
- 35% – make a bee home
- 5% – dig a pond
Bee Creative in the Garden supporters
Monty Don said: “British gardeners can actively nurture and conserve the wild bee population. Gardens are always a rich source of food for wild bees and with a little care can be made even better for them without any trouble or loss of pleasure to the gardener.
“You do not need rare or tricky plants. In fact, the opposite is true. Bees need pollen and the smaller flowers of unhybridised species are likely to be a much richer source than huge show blooms on plants that are the result of elaborate breeding.
“Any flower that is open and simple, such as members of the daisy family, or any that are set like a lollipop on a stick, such as scabious, and all members of the thistle family, are ideal for attracting honey bees, which have rather short tongues so need easy access.
“Bumblebees have longer tongues so are better adapted for plants that have more of a funnel shape, such as foxgloves.”
Bee-friendly plants for September/October: single dahlias, Cosmos, globe thistle (Echinops), Agastache foeniculum, hemp agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum), heather (Calluna vulgaris), lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), ivy (Hedera helix).
Go on a bee hunt
September is an excellent time to look for wild bees, including some more unusual species and recent arrivals to the UK:
Bees to look out for:
All species of bumblebee are active. Bumblebee nests start producing males and new queens. Queens are usually significantly larger than the worker females, and may linger at the nest initially but will eventually mate and then forage to build up their body fat in preparation for hibernation.
Common Colletes (Colletes succinctus) – a striking-looking solitary bee that uses heather as its principal pollen source.
Harebell Carpenter Bee (Chelostoma campanularum) – this tiny black bee collects pollen from garden species of bellflower. Help them by leaving dead wood with holes in for nesting and by making a bee hotel from dried reed stems.
The Common Furrow Bee (Lasioglossum calceatum) – males and females may be found on a wide variety of garden flowers.
Leafcutter bees should already be nesting by now, in brickwork cavities, rotting wood, pipes, pots and old bags of compost.
The Ivy Bee (Colletes hederae) – is a new arrival but is spreading rapidly. This bee is active in autumn and gathers pollen almost entirely from ivy flowers. Bees nest by burrowing into the soil and small piles of the excavated soil can be seen on lawns.
For more information, visit the Bees, Wasps, and Ants Recording Society website www.bwars.com/.
The wild bee-friendly gardening guide, Get Your Garden Buzzing For Bees, is free to download at wildaboutgardensweek.org.uk.