Bees are a very important part of the ecosystem around the world. Not only do we rely on them to pollinate many of our crops but birds and mammals also rely on them to pollinate the plants they eat. And it’s not only flowers and food crops which bees pollinate – trees rely on bees to pollinate them too.
Bee populations in decline
Bee numbers are falling and there are several reasons for this;
- Pesticides, which farmers use to kill the insects which eat their crops, affect the bees nervous system. They become disorientated and unable to feed until eventually they die.
- The varroa mite is a huge problem for honey bees. This tiny mite attaches itself to the bee and sucks its blood. When a bee returns to it’s hive the varroa mite spreads through the hive and can wipe out a whole colony in just a couple of years.
- The loss of wild spaces in the countryside means that bees have less places to find food and build their nests.
It’s not all bad news though. You can help the bees! With some simple changes you can make your garden ‘bee friendly’ by providing food, shelter and a place to nest.
Make your garden bee friendly
Let your lawn grow
If you have a lawn let it grow long and don’t get rid of the dandelions and clover – they are one of a bees favourite food!
Don’t use pesticides
Avoid using pesticides and herbicides in your garden as they contain chemicals which are harmful to bees.
Bees need water too!
Put some water out for the bees – use a shallow bird bath or heavy dish with added pebbles for the bees to stand on.
Give bees a home
Not all bees live in colonies – many are solitary. Female solitary bees spend most of their lives searching for a suitable nesting site. Whilst some will nest in the ground others look for small holes to lay their eggs in.
You can help these bees by building a ‘bee hotel’ to provide them with a home. Your bee hotel can be something as simple as a small wooden box with bamboo canes in it. You could also create something more elaborate with different materials in such as logs with holes drilled into them, small sticks and straw to provide lots of nooks and crannies.
Grow bee friendly plants
Grow native pollen and nectar rich plants to provide food for bees. Make sure you have a variety of plants in flower from early spring to late autumn to provide food all year round. Grow bluebells, foxgloves, comfrey, clover, greater knapweed, hellebore, honeysuckle, viper’s bugloss, wood anemone.
Bee Fact File
Did you know that here in the UK we have an amazing 267 different species of bee including the honey bee, bumblebees and solitary bees! Find out all about bee life in our bee fact file.
Create a Wildlife Garden
Wildlife gardens are becoming increasingly important as natural habitats are destroyed and native species need to find new homes. Creating a wildlife garden is lots of fun and a great way to teach kids about the natural world around them.
Go on a Mini Beast Hunt!
Go into your garden or take a trip to your local park or woodland for your mini beast hunt! Print out our Five Flamingo ‘Mini Beast Hunt’ record sheet to record what you find.
Mini Beast Guide
There are lots of different mini beasts. Some are social like ants and bees, some are slimy like snails and some have more legs than you can count, like centipedes! Use out mini beast guide to find out more about all the different mini beasts you’re likely to see in your garden .