How to bee-friendly this summer!

Tuesday 1st August 2017

Image by Nick Upton/2020 Vision

Bee lovers prepared to let the grass grow for the cause

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and The Wildlife Trusts’ Bee Creative in the Garden! campaign is in full swing this summer and has had a fantastic response by gardeners who are creating havens for wild bees across the UK.

New polls reveal how people would most like to help wild bees - planting foxgloves and letting your lawn grow long were the stand-out favourites. We asked*:

Which of these bee-friendly plants would you most like to plant in your garden? (752 votes)
Votes:
47% Foxglove
25% Sunflower
16% Borage
12% Single dahlias

Which of these actions are you most likely to do to help wild bees? (342 votes)
Votes:

60% Let your lawn grow long
35% Make a bee home
5% Dig a pond

Bee Creative in the Garden supporters

Monty Don says:
“British gardeners can actively nurture and conserve the wild bee population. Gardens are always a rich source of food for wild bees and with a little care can be made even better for them without any trouble or loss of pleasure to the gardener. You do not need rare or tricky plants. In fact the opposite is true. Bees need pollen and the smaller flowers of unhybridised species are likely to be a much richer source than huge show blooms on plants that are the result of elaborate breeding. Any flower that is open and simple, such as members of the daisy family, or any that are set like a lollipop on a stick, such as scabious, and all members of the thistle family, are ideal for attracting honey bees, which have rather short tongues so need easy access. Bumblebees have longer tongues so are better adapted for plants that have more of a funnel shape, such as foxgloves.”

Go wild for these bees this August!

Late summer is an excellent time to look for wild bees, including some more unusual species and recent arrivals to the UK:
All species of bumblebee are active at this time of year. Towards the end of the season (Aug – Sept) bumblebee nests start producing males and new queens. Queens are usually significantly larger than the worker females, and may linger at the nest initially but will eventually mate and then forage to build up their body fat in preparation for hibernation over winter.
Common Colletes (Colletes succinctus) – a striking looking solitary bee that uses heather as its principal pollen source.
Harebell Carpenter Bee (Chelostoma campanularum) – this tiny black bee collects pollen from garden species of bellflower. You can also help them by leaving dead wood with holes in for nesting and by making a bee hotel from dried reed stems.
The Common Furrow Bee (Lasioglossum calceatum) is around for most of the year. In August both males and females may be found on a wide variety of garden flowers.
Leaf-cutter bees are active until the end of August and you can sometimes see distinctive circular and oval shapes that the female bee cuts out of leaves, particularly roses. She carries the leaf pieces back to the nest site, gluing them together with sticky saliva to create a cigar-shaped nest to lay eggs in. Nest sites can include cavities in brickwork and rotting wood in addition to pipes, pots and old bags of compost.
A relatively recent arrival to the UK is the Ivy Bee (Colletes hederae). Not everyone will have seen the species but its range is increasing rapidly. This bee is active in the autumn months and gathers pollen almost entirely from ivy flowers, the latest flowering native plant. Bees nest by burrowing into the soil and small piles of the excavated soil can sometimes be seen in large numbers on lawns.
For more information about these bees, please see the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society website. 

Take action for wild bees this summer!

Check on your bee hotel to see how many are in use (the holes will be capped off with mud, leaves or resin).
Put out shallow dishes of water, filled with pebbles, to provide easy drinking places for thirsty bees, chiefly honey bees.
Bee friendly plants for August – single flowered dahlias, cosmos, globe thistle (Echinops), Agastache foeniculum, hemp agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum), heather (Calluna vulgaris), lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), ivy (Hedera helix).
For more inspiration on Summer flowering plants that are good for bees see the BWARS website list here.

The wild bee-friendly gardening guide, ‘Get your garden buzzing for bees’, is free to download and contains lots of facts about the different species of wild bee, their lifecycles and how they nest, as well as practical steps gardeners can take to help them.

Enter our Bee Creative photo competition! Gardeners, gardening groups and schools are encouraged to share how they’ve welcomed wild bees into their gardens by posting a picture on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – using the hashtag #wildaboutgardens and the category being entered – of their bee-friendly area, whether that be a tailor-made bee home, a flower-packed border or a wall that bees have made their own.

A list of the wildlife gardening events taking place can be found at wildaboutgardensweek.org.uk – please note that more will be added as the season progresses.