Why you should make your garden bee friendly in spring
In recent years there have been urgent warnings that bees and other pollinating insects in the United Kingdom are under threat. There are over 250 species of bee in the UK and over the last 50 years, particularly for wild bees, we have seen a long term decline in their population. Bees are not the only insects affected, as records also show significant and worrying decline in butterfly numbers since the 1970’s.
A huge number of fruit and vegetable crops are dependant on these pollinators and their decline also has a direct impact on biodiversity across the whole food chain. As well as their role as pollinators, many insects are a food source for a wide range of animals like birds and bats. Any decrease in their numbers will have an impact on any wildlife dependent on them.
Given all this information it’s obvious that this decline could have significant consequences and it’s becoming increasingly important that this problem is tackled. Thankfully this is something that everyone can get involved with and our gardens can play a role in helping to reverse these trends.
Factors causing decline of pollinating insects include the use of pesticides, climate change and diseases but studies by DEFRA have shown that loss of habitat, specifically flower-rich meadows and hedgerows due to intensive farming and ever increasing urbanisation is the biggest factor in England.
To help, gardeners can provide a flower rich habitat to help and encourage insects. This could be as simple as a flower filled hanging basket or window box, a small collection of pots or a flower bed full of nectar and pollen rich flowering plants, and, one of the easiest ways to include more flowers in your garden is by planting flower bulbs in the autumn.
August might seem a bit early to be thinking about spring but if you want bulbs growing next spring not only do you need to be planning what to plant now, but as the month ticks over into September you’ll also need start getting bulbs in the ground.
Spring flowering bulbs not only look wonderful but play a massively important role for pollinators like solitary bees, bumble bees, butterflies and hoverflies. As the weather warms up in spring these hungry insects will begin to emerge from their winter hibernation and at this time of year sources of food are scarce.
Crocuses are one of the first flowers to appear in spring and are extremely popular with bees. A clump of purple crocuses planted in autumn in a sunny spot will not only cheer your spirits after the long dull days of winter but will be a welcome sight for bees and other hungry insects. In the sun their delicate petals will open wide and bees will rush to fill up on the pollen and nectar they provide.
Thankfully, planting bulbs is probably one of the easiest gardening jobs around. The rule of thumb with all bulbs is to plant at three times their depth, pointy end up, from September onwards and all you have to do then is sit back and wait until spring. As an added bonus, bulbs will spread and naturalise over the years, so your initial planting will increase in size without any work required.
No matter what size your garden, there are a huge variety of flowers you can include so it’s easy to help and not only will the insects be thankful but you and any fruit or vegetables you have in your garden will benefit too!
For more information the RHS maintains a list of bee friendly plants to help encourage pollinators into your garden on its website as part of it’s ‘Plants for Pollinators’ scheme.
Some of our favourite bee-friendly bulbs
Queen Bees emerging from hibernation will flock to the open petals of crocus flowers to feed.
Muscari (Grape Hyacinth) is a favourite of the solitary hairy-footed flower bee, the Anthophora Plumpies.
There are many varieties of alliums, all dripping with nectar. Allium Bulgaricum is popular with red-tailed bumblebees.
Fritillaria Meleagris (Snake's head fritillary) produce nectar with a very high sugar content - the perfect food for bumblebees and other insects.