Can you help the bees?

Apr 15, 2014 - POSTED BY Anna Halloran - Gardeners Choice , Whats Hot

Bees need pollen and nectar for food and we need bees to survive to pollinate the crops that provide our food.  If you have a garden or any outdoor space why not plant a tempting menu for bumblebees? Why bumblebees in particular?  Different bees have varying characteristics and the bumblebee is non-aggressive and only stings if threatened, so makes a better guest in your garden. They have shorter tongues than most other bees which narrows the types of flowers they can feed on.  As each type of bee feeds on different plant species it makes it easier to plant accordingly. Where to start? Begin by planting a bumblebee friendly menu which will flower from March to September. There are many different plants for you to choose from and here to start with are three suggestions that they will find irresistible for early Spring. Pulmonaria Blue Ensign AGM, Helleborus Niger, Rosemarinus officianalis Miss Jessop’s Upright AGM.

Did you know that bumblebees can beat their wings 11,400 times a minute and that the buff tailed bumblebee queen may have to visit up to 6000 flowers a day in order to get enough nectar to maintain the heat needed to brood her eggs? Here are a three more suggestions for tasty titbits for her during May – June. Geranium Rozanne, which was voted plant of the month by the RHS, Papaver orientale Patty’s Plum and Digitalis Purpurea

For the height of Summer there are quite a few flowering plants to choose from, which include among others, Cornflower (Centaurea), Dahlia,  Lavendula, Roses,Thistles ( Erigiums) and Verbenas. Bumblebees use the nectar from the flowers to feed themselves and the pollen to feed their young. They have smelly feet as once they have visited a plant they leave their scent behind to tell the others.

September to October are the last months of activity around a bumblebee nest and then there is a lull till the Spring. Colonies only last one season and here are the final suggestions for your bumblebee friendly planting menu. Catmint (Nepeta, I especially like Dawn to Dusk that flowers later than most),  if your garden is large enough sowing a wild flower meadow is another attractive way to provide food for bumblebees. Be sure to plant some early flowering bulbs such as crocuses and daffodils to keep them going till the early summer wild flowers start to bloom