Creating a Bumblebee Garden
Attracting bumblebees to your garden is easier than you think! Whether you have a small window box, an allotment or a large garden, planting bee-friendly flowers can play an important role in supporting the local bumblebee population. No matter how much space you have available, you can make a difference by providing at least two different types of bee-friendly flowers that will bloom during each flowering period throughout the year (spring, summer, autumn and winter). Not only will plants make your home look nice, they also ensure that there is always plenty of pollen on offer to meet the needs of all bumblebees.
Why it is important to Help Bees
These fascinating creatures are essential for pollinating our flowers, crops, fruits and vegetables, which is why it’s so important to provide them with the ideal habitat to flourish. For the past eight decades, wildflower meadows in the United Kingdom alone have dwindled at an alarming rate. Many bumble bee species are ground nesting. With nearly 97% of these meadows vanished, bumblebees and other pollinators are left with fewer sources of food.
The United States has seen its populations of the native American bumblebee drastically decline in the past two decades, with a drop of around 90%. The reasons behind this drastic decline include habitat destruction, the use of pesticides, and climate change. This is a concern as pollinators are essential for the health of our environment, playing a key role in the pollination of plants and flowers.
Gardening Tips for Beginners
Gardens can still serve as sanctuaries for bumble bees, and it doesn’t take a green thumb to help out. Even if you don’t have an outdoor space, a window-box, balcony or hanging basket can still provide a place for them to thrive. This guide provides simple tips on how to make your area bee friendly.
Avoiding annual bedding plants such as pansies, petunias, begonias, pelargoniums and busy lizzies, will not only help bumblebees, but can also reduce the amount of gardening work. Instead, opt for herbaceous perennials and shrubs that are adapted to local conditions. These will require little maintenance beyond an annual trim, yet they can still add color and interest to your garden in the form of different flowers, foliage and berries.
When should I start planting a bumblebee garden?
The best habitats for bumblebees are those that provide adequate supplies of nectar and pollen during their active period (March until October). In order to provide flowering plants that are attractive to bumblebees throughout the year, it is essential to select varieties which have an extended blooming season. Plant a variety of different plants with differing bloom times, including early spring flowers such as crocuses and winter-flowering shrubs such as snowberries.
Aside from bloom times, it is also important to provide a wide range of sizes, shapes and colors of flowers. Bumblebees with short tongues can take advantage of the abundance of simple, open flowers like apple blossoms to feed on. These simplistic blooms are easy for the bees to access. They have shallow petals and plenty of nectar that the bumblebees can quickly and easily extract from the flowers.
On the other hand, bumblebees with long tongues can forage on deeper tube-shaped blooms such as foxgloves. The long, tubular shape of the foxglove’s petals requires a longer tongue in order to effectively access the nectar. These types of flowers may provide a richer reward for the bees, although they often require more effort to access.
Include plants such as foxgloves, lavender, fennel, forget-me-nots, marjoram, thyme and red clover to attract a variety of species.
Where should I plant?
It’s worth noting that bumblebees typically like open sunny areas where they can bask in the sun among native wildflowers such as clover and thistles; however they can thrive in almost any environment – from urban gardens to country meadows – as long as they have access to plenty of nectar-rich blooms. Furthermore, incorporating native wildflowers into your garden will further encourage these busy pollinators. Wildflowers are different depending on the climate and geographic location. While some wildflowers grow best in cold climates, others prefer a temperate climates, and several thrive in hot climates.
Bumblebees need all the help they can get. By planting in large drifts or patches, rather than rows or lines, you will increase the amount of pollen and nectar available to bumblebees. Doing so helps the bumblebees save energy and allows them to move more quickly from one flower to another. To get the most out of your garden, you’ll want to plant flowers of the same type in clumps or clusters. This makes it easy for bees to find, navigate and pollinate the flowers.
So why not get creative with your flower choices and create a buzzing haven for these special creatures!
Small Spaces without Gardens
Inviting bees onto your balcony, patio and window sill is a great way to help out our pollinator friends! A good-sized pot or window box can contain a variety of plants that will attract different species of bumblebees, giving them somewhere to feed and breed. As well as providing the bees with a natural habitat and food source, you can also enjoy watching their activity while relaxing on your balcony or patio.
For planting in containers, use a good-quality, peat-free compost that retains moisture. Because soil dries out more quickly in containers, keep them well-watered. If you cannot water the flowers frequently, you can add moisture-holding gels that are particularly handy in hanging baskets and containers as they retain water for longer periods of time. Another alternative are watering globes that slowly drip water into the container.
If this is not an option, you can choose drought-tolerant plants that prefer drier conditions, such as Mediterranean herbs. Not only are these great for bees, they can also be used in the kitchen. Larger pots can be planted with shrubs and climbers and surround them with smaller plants like heather, hardy geraniums, heucheras, alliums and muscari.
Keep an eye on your plants as the blooms start to fade. Deadheading withered blossoms and trimming plants back to encourage new growth . Regularly cleaning up fallen leaves and petals will also help to keep the area tidy.
Seeds and Bulbs
Growing plants from seeds is a rewarding experience that can provide months of joy. With just one seed packet, you can sow an abundance of annuals and perennials for a fraction of the cost of buying large plants from a garden centre. Herbaceous perennials like mint, lungwort, rudbeckia, comfrey, echinacea and lamb´s ears are not only great for bumble bees, they can also be used in the kitchen. They are available at most garden centers and once established in the ground, all that needs to be done is to cut back the dead stems in late autumn or early spring, and they will return year after year.
Bulbs are also an easy way to get lots of plants quickly. They are perennials, which means they come back year after year without any special care. With a little bit of effort and patience, you can transform your outdoor space into a vibrant garden full of colorful blooms.
Native Flowers and Herbs
Creating an inviting habitat involves introducing native flowering plants that will bloom throughout the year, such as lavender and sunflowers. Encouraging beneficial insects by adding particular herbs that act as natural insect repellents, like marigolds and chrysanthemums, is another way of helping bumblebees flourish in your outdoor space. It is also important to reduce the amount of chemical pest control measures to avoid killing any bees inadvertently. Instead encourage other predators such as ladybirds and lacewings which feed on pests naturally.
Bees can be thirsty!
Every animal needs regular and reliable sources of water, especially when it is dry and hot. Bees also need water for drinking and cleaning their fur of pollen. Adding shallow dishes of water with pebbles or stones helps bees to hydrate without the danger of drowning.
Provide a Living Space
Setting up a bee hotel in a safe corner of your garden or on your balcony creates extra living space for bees, and is a great way to observe these little creatures.
Finally, try not to disturb any resting bumblebees! They can be quite sensitive when taking a rest from pollinating! With just a few changes you can help protect bumblebees’ populations and ensure that our gardens really buzz with activity once more!
When planning your bee-friendly garden, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind. It’s important to assess the space you have available, such as whether it is sunny or shady, small or large. This will help you determine what kind of seasonal planting to include. Additionally, bee-friendly gardens should be populated with a variety of plants that offer both nectar and pollen. A bee hotel can also be built to provide shelter for solitary bees. It will help to boost the biodiversity of your garden. Finally, it’s important to overlook “weeds”. Allowing a patch on your lawn to grow naturally helps provide a food source for bumblebees. With these considerations in mind, you’ll be on your way to creating a bee-friendly paradise!