Bee Keeping, easy ways to attract bees to your garden.

“Don’t wear perfume in the garden - unless you want to be pollinated by bees.”
Anne Raver

Perfume aside, where would we be without bees? Without honey for one thing, no more “honey and lemon” to soothe a cough or jars of spreadable gold for layering sweetness on to bread or scones. But think deeper and you will realise that the loss of honey is just a mere prick compared to the savage sting that the loss of the honeybee could cause us.

Imagine a world where peas, tomatoes, strawberries, apples, etc were absent from your garden and the fresh produce shelves of the supermarkets. Hundreds of fruits and vegetables depend heavily upon bees for pollination. The step that begins the transformation of a plants flower into the fruit or veg we love.

Our bees carry out their best pollination by accident, photo / pic / image.

Pollination. For pollination to occur, pollen dust must be moved from the male parts of the flowers (anther) to the female parts (stigma). This can happen by wind disturbance or the brushing action of passing people, animals and various insects.

Our bees carry out their best pollination by accident as they forage for sugars in the form of nectar, and proteins and fats in the shape of the aforementioned pollen. They get pollen stuck all over their hairy selves, then bumble from flower to flower shedding and collecting the dust as they go.

So without bees we could experience a massive drop in fruit and veg production, and with those fortunate enough to be pollinated (poorly) we could see lower yields and deformed fruits. Now although our two wet summers and the attack from a parasitic mite called Varroa destructor have reduced wild bee numbers, they are still around in reasonable swarms.

Since our bees will forage anything from three to ten kilometres around their hive it’s worth your while to fill your garden with plants attractive to them. The benefit you will receive from these wonderful pollinators buzzing around your veg and fruit will be backed up by the happy summer hum that only the bee can deliver.

Plants for bees.

When selecting planting to attract bees I always look to the locals first. It’s estimated that native plants are four times more attractive to our native bees than imported species. This makes sense especially when you also consider that carefully selected natives are adapted to the climate, exposure and soil type particular to your area.

So if your planting native trees this upcoming autumn, let me suggest you opt for some of the following bee attractants… black Alder, wild cherry, bird cherry, trembling poplar, goat willow, rowan, whitebeam, wild crab apple, and Killarney strawberry tree.

A lot of our native shrubs can also employed as bee bait. Use the following as clustered underplantings beneath the trees or incorporated into a mixed/wild native hedgerow… hazel, common privet, guelder Rose, dog rose, elderberry, blackthorn, and hawthorn.

Outside of our native plants there is plenty of scope to increase your bee numbers by careful selection of “plants for places”

Herb garden: include thyme and sage.

Growing on walls and trellis: Pyracantha, honeysuckle and Irish ivy.

Container growing: Lavender and Sedum are your best bets.

Exposed or coastal garden: most Hebes and Geraniums.

Summer flowering shrubs: butterfly bush and hypericum.

Evergreen: Ceanothus and Escallonia

Perennial plantings: Borage and globe thistle.

On acid soils: Heather and blueberry will thrive and attract bees.

Lawns: Put the weedkiller away and allow clover to take hold in areas of grass, the bees go absolutely mad for it.

My final tip to further increase the frequency of bee visits is to avoid spraying against pests in your garden. You see most pesticides are not selective, killing friend, foe, and everything in between. If you must spray, do so at dusk to avoid damage to your pollinating insects.

More debate about this topic on our forum, click Irish gardeners forum.


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