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Why have a bee-friendly garden?

Last week I was contacted by a person who runs the website for an outdoors holiday company. They are currently making their gardens more bee-friendly, and wanted to hear from us for a piece on the website. I realised that many of the questions were good ones, so I've copied my answers to the questions into this blog.

How important are bees to wildlife preservation?

Bees are extremely important because of their role in helping plants to reproduce. Most flowering plants need to be pollinated by insects, and bees are some of the best pollinators because they can visit hundreds of flowers a day. This helps wildflowers to produce seeds, which is essential if they are to survive. As flowering plants are the basis of many food chains, bees can be seen to support whole ecosystems, simply by helping these plants through pollination.

How can we encourage bees to visit our gardens?

Bees are much-loved visitors to gardens, and many species are now more common in urban and suburban gardens than they are in the wider countryside because gardeners tend to like flowering plants – and so do bees! It’s important to have the right plants though, as not every flowering plant produces the pollen and nectar that bees can eat. The best garden plants are herbs such as lavender, thyme and rosemary, but they also love allium, catmint, nasturtium and comfrey. Even if people don’t have an awful lot of space, they can still help bees by having a small planter or window box with something like strawberry, heather and miniature dahlia.

To help people make their gardens more bee friendly, we have created ‘Bee kind’, an interactive gardening tool on our website. Bee kind allows users to tell us which plants they have in their gardens already, and they’ll be given a rating for how bee-friendly their garden is based on those results. They will then be given a list of plans they don’t already have, which would be great additions to their gardens. You can find Bee kind at: http://bumblebeeconservation.org/get-involved/gardening-for-bees/

You can also help bees by leaving places for them to nest. Bumblebees like quiet corners with thick grass or leaves. Other kinds of bees will nest in sandy soil and rockeries.

How would a bee help an eco-garden?

Bees will help your garden by pollinating the flowers you have. This is essential for many of the fruits we eat, and bees pollinate many things, including soft fruit (raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries, etc.), apples, peas, beans, and even cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers!

Why do we have 'bee bouncers'?

Bumblebees have worker bees in the nest, whose jobs may be to find food or stay in the nest and help raise offspring and keep the nest clean. Some bees act as guard bees though, and their main role is to protect the nest against predators. Bumblebee nests may be attacked by birds, badgers, foxes, and even other bumblebees who may want to take it over. So the guard bees are vital to the survival of the nest.

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