Spring is upon us once again and there is much to do in the garden and hopefully time to plant flower and bush pollinators for the bees and other insects. Our garden has several attractants such as pink and white heather, a mystery highly fragrant bush by our front door, a rhododendron and a cherry blossom next door for starters. Here’s a few planting suggestions on how we can all help the bees.
Attract Bees with Herbs & Spices
- #1 personal favourite is chives – it is first up in the spring, with bright purple blossoms which bloom for a long period and attract bees
- Later in the spring / summer Mint begins to blossom and seems to attract wild bees and other insects to the flowers. This fragrant herb should be potted as it can take over your garden.
- Lemon balm – fragrant and makes great tea. It is similar to mint and if left to blossom baby lemon balm trees will magically appear all over your garden
Several other herbs which attract bees and other flying insects are :
- Lavender – again we have 2 growing in pots as well as others throughout the garden
- Sage – we have plain and variegated sage growing
- Rosemary – we have several planted around the garden permanently as well outside the kitchen door on the patio which we use for cooking
Without enough protection in our cold winters it can be a challenge to grow these herbs some years. Now we have a greenhouse, herbs in pots will overwinter there.
Bees love Beans
My first choice vegetable to grow for flowers is the Scarlet runner bean – I start the seeds inside in April / May for transplanting out when temperatures warm up. This is my only recommendation because it is a fast grower and not only attracts bees and other beneficial insects but the hummingbirds can always be seen making their daily visits before migration. Beans also have the benefit of producing over a long season, remaining prolific as long as the beans are picked. It will continue to flower until killed by frost or snow. It is also a great kid friendly plant to grow. Every year I save some seeds for planting the following year and have done this for decades.
Flowers specific for Bees
This spring I have planted Bee Blend Wildflowers specifically to attract bees to the garden. The seed packet claims the “scientifically blended mix” will attract honeybees, mason bees, bumblebees, and many other beneficial pollinators to any garden area” – sounds good to me. “Feed the Bees”. These suggestions are easy to plant early in our Spring and should regrow for several years.
Try and combine bee friendly plants which flower over a long period and for continuous flowers in your garden, especially under fruit trees and near the vegetable garden.These are only a handful of the many plants, and flowers to pick from. Choose those you love and enjoy.
- Chives, mint, sage and lavender are grown in pots (Portable Pollinator Pots) so I can move them around the garden to help attract pollinators to vegetable flowers and fruit trees as they bloom
- We have two bird baths with constant fresh water for both the birds and the bees
- If you are adventurous, build (or buy) your own Mason bee homes
- Hybrid plants do not have the same volume of pollen and nectar and are not as beneficial to grow to attract bees
- The herbs mentioned about are generally beneficial to many other plants in your garden
- Don’t use toxic chemicals in your gardens or on your lawns especially if they are neonicotinoids or neonics – a widely used group of pesticides which are harmful to bees and include Imidacloprid, Thiamethoxan, Clothianidin. “Follow the Honey” a report by Michele Simon on pesticides and bees
Update: April 2016
Recently found a ground cover called “Grace Ward” (Lithodora diffusa). The plant has beautiful deep blue flowers which bumble bees are very attracted to. Plant is hardy to -12C, no pruning required and likes full sun. Easy care.
The “fragrant bush at our front door” is Fragrant Mountain Himalayan Sweetbox (Sarcococca humilis ‘Sarsid 2’) which blooms early in the spring here and attracts a wide variety of pollinators. Bush is hardy to -25C, partial shade to full shade, grows to about 3 feet. Classified as a winter bloomer and deer resistant!
Links & References
- Harvard Research report on honeybees dying due to use of neonicotionoids
- Declining bee populations pose a threat to global agriculture by Elizabeth Grossman
- Global honey bee colony disorders and other threats to insect pollinators – United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP)
- Facts and figures on bee decline – Royal Horticultural Society (UK)
- A financial alternative to the demise of the honey bee – human pollinators Note: BeABeeInc does not exist – yet!
- Report by Global Research “Death of the Bees. Genetically Modified Crops and the Decline of Bee Colonies in North America”
- CaP on our declining bee populations