Bees are absolutely essential for our gardens, but honey bee numbers are declining around the world because of Varroa mite infestations, various diseases, misuse of pesticides, and removal of their habitat – the flowers that supply nectar and pollen. We have to look after our bees because we can’t survive without them.
Now that I am growing so many more fruits and vegetables in my garden, I really started to think about what I could do to help increase the numbers of bees as well. The best thing you can do is to grow plants in your garden that attract bees – all year round. Bees love plants with ample amounts of pollen and nectar, and are attracted to yellow, blue-green, blue and ultraviolet coloured flowers.
The National Beekeepers Association has all sorts of useful and interesting information about bees on their website including a brochure on Urban Trees for Bees: Planting for Bees in your Garden. There are lists of all the different bee-friendly plants you can use and the good news is that many of the fruits, vegetables and herbs (and many natives too) that are already in my garden are amongst them.
“In gardens, the possibilities for numerous plant species with glorious flowers are endless and even the vege garden can have lots of good bee plants like squash and corn. Almost all of the herb plants tend to have a lot of nectar and are particularly well loved by bees, especially rosemary, lavender and sage. The same is true for fruit trees like apples, and plums and especially citrus fruits. Native plants for the garden such as New Zealand flax and the cabbage tree are also of high value for bees”
They also suggest that you provide fresh drinking water for bees (I hope they can share the bird-bath with the birds) and that if you do need to spray in your garden, don’t spray when plants are in flower or bees are present, and spray early morning or at sunset.
I am really enjoying planting a whole range of different herbs that I haven’t had before and loving having lots of flowers and colours in amongst the fruit and vegetables. Many of them are good companion plants too – which is an added bonus.
Flowers for Bees
Borage, Lavender, Rosemary, Calendula, Marigolds, Forget-me-nots, Alyssum, Basil, Cosmos, Globe Thistles, Oregano, Sages, Salvias, Thymes, Lemon Balm, Bergamot, Chives, Coriander, Rocket, Verbena, Snapdragons, Apple, Citrus, Fuchsia, Hebes, Plums, Cabbage Tree, Lemonwood, NZ Flax, Pohutukawa.