It may be winter but before we know it the ground will start to thaw, folks will be back out in their gardens, and bees and other pollinators will make an appearance once again. If like me you’re a big fan of these little flower-friends, you may have wondered how best to make your garden, flower boxes, or community allotment into a more bee-friendly habitat.
Let’s get right to it, shall we? Without further ado, here are a few easy ways you can help our planet’s precious pollinators.
1 – Buy or build your own bee hotel.
A bee hotel is a great way to help solitary bees such as Mason, Yellow-faced, and Leaf-cutter bees feel welcome in your garden. These types of bees don’t live in hives and tend to gravitate towards hollow stems and holes in dead wood when building their nests.
Should you choose to build your own bee hotel, Friends of the Earth has published a helpful guide on their website which includes a simple, cheap method involving reusing old plastic bottles. If you’d like a slightly more sophisticated look for your bee hotel, you can also make one out of wood. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has a nice how-to page, showing you one way to make a 5-star bee B+B out of wood offcuts.
Don’t fancy making your own bee habitat from scratch? That’s OK – you can always consider buying one from nature-based charities such as The Woodland Trust, RSPB, or similar. A quick Google search will give you a range of options from which to choose.
2 – Install bee bricks in the walls of your home (…or other structure you may be building!).
This is something that I didn’t know existed until just recently, and – like a bee hotel – I think it’s a really cool idea!
Like a bee hotel, a bee brick provides a comfortable nesting space for solitary bees. Unlike a bee hotel, a bee brick can actually be incorporated into the walls of a building! They don’t have to be though – instead you could simply have a few of these stylish, minimalist-looking blocks dotted about your backyard, ready to welcome bees to the neighborhood. Cornwall-based company Green&Blue have designed and created the Bee Brick™, a variety of sizes of Bee Blocks, even a Bee Pot that’s half bee hotel and half planter.
3 – If you have a garden, don’t use pesticides with harmful chemicals.
In 2018, the European Union passed a ban on all neonicotinoid pesticides, citing studies which have shown that these chemicals are detrimental to bees’ reproduction success and impair bees’ natural defense systems.
If you can, garden without the use of pesticides entirely – or seek out eco-friendly alternatives to traditional synthetic pesticides. Some plants – such as green chilies, garlic, and neem – have properties which can be harnessed to defend against pests. Essential oils of rosemary, thyme, clove, and mint have also been used to successfully defend against pests.
4 – Set up a bee watering hole.
Bees need water too, and not just for drinking. Honey bees need water to dissolve and dilute crystallized honey in order to make food for their larvae.
In order to help these bees out, consider putting out a saucer or similar shallow container of water in your yard. Bees can’t exactly do the breaststroke though, so think about placing a few flat stones or even a few corks in the water to give visiting bees a safe place to land and sip.
5 – Plant native species in your flower boxes and garden.
There are lots of excellent options when it comes to selecting plants that are both beautiful and bee-friendly. Friends of the Earth has a nice, easy-to-understand guide, which you can find here.
In winter, mahonia, snowdrops, and rosemary can provide pollen and nectar for bees. Come spring, bees will go for the likes of blossoming apple trees, crocuses, marjoram, comfrey, and cowslip. In summertime, lavender, hawthorn, and bee balm are good for our busy buzzing friends. And in autumn, bee bush, honeysuckle, and yarrow are good options.
Grab some seeds from your nearest garden shop, or you can purchase a Bee Mix from UK-based company Seedball and scatter them about your garden.
6 – If you can, support a charitable organization working to protect bees.
There are several charities around the world that focus primarily on helping bees. Here in the UK, there’s the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. In the US, there’s also The Honeybee Conservancy. Check them out if this is a cause that appeals to you.