Bumblebee on Knautia macedonica flower.

Hungry Critters (1): Bees

Sometimes it feels as if there is nothing much that you can do to help the problems of the world around you. But we’re not as powerless as we may think. Small actions do make an impact, even if it’s only in our own small area.

For me, environmental issues are something that I’ve been aware of for a long time and I’m especially concerned about the challenges faced by pollinating insects.

Bumblebee on a blue scabious flower.
Scabious is a great plant for bees.

In an attempt to do what I can to help, I have been trying to increase the number of plants that are good pollen and nectar sources in my garden. It does seem to be a case of ‘plant it and they will come’, because during the last couple of years I’ve noticed a big difference in the number of bees and hoverflies in the garden.

Luckily, just like the bees, I prefer the simpler flowers to highly-bred doubles. (Think of an open bowl-shape that gives easy access to the centre of the flower for short-tongued bees, and tubular flowers like the foxglove for long-tongued bees.)

Bumblebee on a dahlia flower.
The open centre of this dahlia makes for easy access to bees.

For spring and summer, the garden has lots of good bee plants. Even in the winter there is mahonia, viburnum and ivy. But late autumn can be a bit sparse, especially after the sedums and asters have finished flowering.

So this year I’m hoping to find a bit more for my late autumn buzzy visitors. Can you imagine a better excuse for a bit of plant shopping?

This week is ‘Bees’ Needs Week’ in the UK and this year there will be online events to raise awareness of what can be done to help bees. You can read more about this and about the work of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust here: https://www.bumblebeeconservation.org/bees-needs/

Honeybee on sedum flowers.
Sedums are among the best autumn-flowering plants for pollinators.

15 thoughts on “Hungry Critters (1): Bees

  1. When I read the title for your special week, the phrase that came to mind was ‘the bees’ knees’ — that 1920s bit of slang that meant something truly special. Bees and all the other pollinators are truly special, and if we make even a bit of an effort, they will come.

    I’m certain you know this, but I’ve been interested to learn that some cultivated species of flowers are essentially useless for pollinators. This article from the Xerces Society’s good. I laughed at this line: “[Some cultivars] have flower structures so complex a pollinator couldn’t find its way to the center with a map, a compass, and a native guide”!

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    1. I love that line! And I think that some flowers have pretty much had the pollen and nectar bred out of them – bedding plants like busy lizzies etc. Now I must go and read that article – thanks for the link! 🙂

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  2. Wow – that was one big bee in the top photo. Really nice capture. I have heard that the bee population seems to be less and less, anyway over here in the US. It makes sense that there are some plants that work better for them. Nice blog Ann.

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    1. Thanks Syd! 🙂 I love the bumblebees and get quite a lot here – some nest in the ground and I can sometimes see them coming and going from their nests. Bees are declining everywhere – too many pesticides and there are bee diseases that can kill them too. So I hope that my little patch will be a safe haven for bees and other insects.

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      1. I know my flowers tend to attract wasps and these I am not really thrilled with as they get rather aggressive. Bees are much prettier and nicer in most cases.

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      2. I’m lucky that we don’t get very many wasps – I’ve no idea why. I think there are several bees that don’t sting, but I don’t know which they are. (The only time I’ve ever been stung is when a wasp got into a gardening glove – ouchy!)

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  3. I think the bees, butterflies and hoverflies are attracted to much of my garden thank goodness but thanks for your advice for the autumn sedum for bees. It’s very colourful and I love it but don’t have any.

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  4. It’s so satisfying to observe the arrival of pollinators in one’s yard after only a little effort, Ann. We have been trying to encourage the growth of native wildflowers and the bees, butterflies, and birds all love them.

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    1. It’s one of the things that makes me very happy in the garden. Today there are peacock butterflies enjoying the warmth all along our brick path. 🙂

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