The importance of pollinating insects cannot be underestimated. Our garden went through a period of several years without seeing too many bees due to extreme drought conditions, but the entire world is experiencing a shortage of these amazing insects due to disease and mistreatment. Without them, we would all be in serious, serious trouble!
Due to the shortage of bees, I have become quite proficient at hand pollinating (had to learn wayyyyy to much about the sex-life of plants…) but would rather leave it to the expert insects. Thankfully we are now back in a position where we have more bees popping over to our garden, so we try to help them by planting as many bee-attractive plants as possible.
Bees are the primary pollinators in our food-garden with some secondary (or as I call them, accidental) pollinators such as wasps, hover-flies, house-flies, and ants. So getting as many bees around is important.
In many places around the world efforts are being made to help the bees. Here are a few ways you can help the honey bee through your own back yard:
Avoid using ANY insecticides
It is essential that you don’t use any insecticides as they often don’t discriminate the “good” from the “bad”. Stick one of those timed insecticide sprays on your back deck and you will not only kill the mosquitoes, but also the butterflies, moths, bees, caterpillars and every other insect within range.
Give them something they like
Bees see in the Ultra-violet range so they are most attracted to bee/purple flowers. While there are many plants you can use to attract and feed bees, here is a list of only three of the plants that we grow among our vegetable plants and fruit trees to keep the bees happy.
Blue Borage – Grow these easily from seed. The beauty of these plants is that the flowers are the same shape as tomato flowers (see photos). I plant them in-between the tomato plants. Just be warned, they will take over your garden like Triffids (just a little less scary) and they go to seed easily. You can use the flowers in drinks, salads or freeze them in ice-cubes!
Lavender – Every garden should have a few Lavender plants but the purple/blue varieties seem to work better at attracting bees. Lavender has such a wide-range of uses as well as just looking and smelling pretty – so there is a true benefit in it for you as well.
Blue-Flowered Rosemary – One of my favourite herbs. I love brushing past it as the smell lingers in the garden beautifully. Easy to dry and has a wide range of uses in cooking or for adding a lovely smell to your house. It is also very easy to grow from a cutting that you can probably nab from a friend or neighbour.
Another way of bringing in insects, bees included, is to let some herbs or leafy greens go to flower. Lettuce has pretty little yellow flowers on it before it goes to seed and chives grow a globe of delicate purple flowers.
We also have the bonus of seeing some visiting native bees, called Blue-Banded Bees. These are huge, amazing non-stringing bees with black and blue/white stripes. You can hear them before you see them as they make a low-pitched buzzing which changes to high-pitch when they are collecting nectar. They love tomato flowers.
If you choose to grow a bee-friendly garden remember to warn visitors in advance or put up a couple of hand-made signs on your garden gates as a bee sting can be fatal to some. Hubby tends to steer clear of the really bee friendly plants, not because he is allergic, just that he is a big scaredy cat when it comes to the remote possibility of being stung!
Until next time, happy gardening!