Bee Friendly Garden - Tips
When we hear about bees most of us think of honeybees (Apis mellifera) but there are many more bees around us. New Zealand has 28 native and 13 introduced species of bee. The bee’s most vital contribution to the world is pollination; but their numbers have been declining due to a combination of factors, including lack of food, and chemical exposure. In New Zealand, the arrival of the varroa mite has meant that wild bee colonies can no longer survive on their own.
Fortunately, there are many ways we can help bees flourish whether we have farms, garden plots, backyards, or live in an urban environment with a “garden” consisting of a few plant containers on a balcony. Spring is the perfect time to get planting for the bees; as the weather starts to warm up, bees will emerge from their hives to start gathering food.
What you can do to support bees and improve your garden:
- Plant seasonal flowers, so that the bees have access to a variety of nectar year-round. An added benefit is that your garden will look continually cheerful and bright.
- There are no hard and fast rules about what to plant, but opt for flowers rich in pollen and nectar. This usually means choosing single flowers over double flowers. Providing a wide range of flowers in your garden, including many trees and shrubs, will provide a bigger banquet for your bees. For some great nectar sources for bees see the list below.
- Provide a source of fresh drinking water for bees. Place some small stones or float some pieces of wood in a small dish or bird bath - bees can’t swim, so they have to be able to access water without treading water.
- Avoid pesticides or use bee friendly spraying practices. One way to reduce the risk of insect attack is by keeping plants healthy, well-watered and well fertilised to maintain a strong plant. Insects are more likely to attack weak plants. If insect problems do occur, choose an insect spray that is bee friendly, or organic, such as pyrethrum and only spray in the evening when bees have gone to bed.
Bee Friendly Plants:
- Flowers: Calendula, Clover, Cornflower, Cosmos, Hollyhocks, Marigold, Michaelmus Daisy, Nasturtiums, Poppy, Salvia, Sunflower, Sweet Alyssum.
- Trees, Shrubs, and Climbers: Apple, Bay Laurel, Cabbage Tree, Kiwifruit, Lavender, Lemon, Pear, Plum, Pohutukawa, Tulip Tree.
- Fruit and vegetables: Blackberry, Sweetcorn, Cucumbers, Pumpkin, Courgette.
- Herbs: Basil, Borage, Chives, Coriander, Echinacea, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme.