Pollination of different plants is incidental to the bee collecting pollen and nectar for its own purpose, that is to feed its larvae. The process benefits the plant by enabling reproduction and the bee has food to take back to the nest, the nectar providing carbohydrates and the pollen is full of protein.
Bees will visit your garden from quite some distance away. They will frequently fly up to four miles from their colony and will travel as far as it takes to collect sufficient pollen. So how do you make your garden a destination of choice?.
Traditional ‘cottage garden’ type flowers are best, as many modern flowers are bred purely for decoration and offer the bees little in the way of pollen and nectar. Old favourites such as lupins, hollyhocks, foxgloves and aquilegia are ideal, together with herbs including rosemary, thyme, sage and borage.
Make sure you have a range of plants that will be a food source throughout the year. Wallflowers and Grape Hyacinth in the spring, Cornflowers and Lavender in the summer, dahlias and ivy in the autumn and black hellebore, crocuses, snowdrops and honeysuckle during the winter.
97% of Britain’s flower meadows have been lost since 1945, so leave a sunny patch for thistles, grasses and wild flowers such as red clover, common knapweed and bird’s-foot trefoil to colonise. The area doesn’t have to be large but there can be anything up to twenty times as many bees in such an environment compared to a cultivated garden.
You don’t have to transform the whole of your garden into a haven for bees, but every little effort will be appreciated by these essential insects as well as other pollinators, and that can only be good for the everyone.