Attracting Bees

My Top Tips For Attracting Bees To Your Garden

I don't know about you, but time permitting, I can literally watch bees for hours, entranced by my favourite little insect helpers.

A garden without the buzz, scurry, flutter, or song of wildlife, is in my view, seriously incomplete.

There is a lot of information on this site, and I hope you'll enjoy taking a look at the resources.

Here are my suggestions to help you to encourage bees to visit and thrive in your garden.


Attracting Bees To The Vegetable Garden

If you are wanting to increase pollination of your fruit and vegetables, it's a good idea to include flowers among the sowing.

  • On our allotment, I grow sweet peas among the runner beans.
  • Nasturtiums are great when allowed to ramble in a border close to the corgettes, without competing with them.
  • I also recommend phacelia below flowering fruits (check the flowering times of each).
  • Always keep a few pots of flowering favourites, such as lavendar and linaria.  Bees love these, and the pots can be moved around the garden and into target zones, where pollination is important.
  • Allow some of your crops to flower if you can spare it, such as kale - the seeds of kale are also edible, so you can collect them afterwards.  See my page about my favourite vegetables for feeding bees and humans!
  • See my information page about growing tomatoes.


Provide A Place to Nest

  • It is easy to provide a home for solitary bees, simply by tying a bundle of hollow garden canes together between 20 – 30 cm long, and hanging them in a sheltered spot. I have experimented with different lengths of canes as well as shop-bought bug houses - and all have been successful!
  • Bumblebees can be more fussy. There is further information on my page about Bumblebee Nests, and more in my Bee Nests Q&A.

    Shop-bought bumblebee nest boxes have provided mixed results, with some being successful, whilst others have not, despite the expense. However, you could experiment with an upturned plant pot beneath the garden shed (supply some dried, chemical-free grass or hamster bedding), or even an old tea pot.   You may also have success with a traditional bird nest box - if it is not inhabited by birds, of course!
    Please note, if you wish to create a home for bumblebees, I recommend you do not 'kidnap' a bumblebee and try to force it to remain in the nest. For one thing, if it is a queen, it may have begun a colony elsewhere, secondly - do you know for sure it is a queen, and not a worker or male - or even a cuckoo bumblebee, which must have the assistance of a host bumblebee species in order to thrive?
  • I do not recommend that you buy boxes of bumblebees for your garden, even if they are native, simply because they may transmit diseases to wild bees. Read more here.
    Instead, I recommend you allow nature to take it's course. It may take a year or two for the nest to be inhabited - or if the site is not suitable, it might be that no bees nest in your bumblebee house. If this seems to be the case, there may be a chance of attracting bees to the nest box by moving it to an alternative spot, and increasing the number of pollen and nectar rich plants in your garden.
  • Attracting honey bees depends mostly on whether there are beekeepers nearby. Wild honey bee colonies are relatively rare, but it is possible you could attract a swarm, which you may or may not be happy about!  If you need to have a swarm removed, contact a bee keeper. Honey bees naturally nest in the hollows of trunks or in caves.


Plant The Right Plants!

  • Flower structures, in terms of the arrangement and shapes of petals and flower heads are therefore a consideration, but one that is easy to miss. To find out more, see this feature about flower borders for bees.
  • Fortunately, whatever your growing conditions, whether you have the ideal soil and weather patterns, or drought and shade, there are plants you can include that will help encourage a visit from bees and other pollinators - see Gardening For Bees In Problem Places.
  • I seriously believe we need to re-think our views of wildflowers - often referred to as 'weeds'.  Many wildflowers are great for attracting bees and other wildlife, are beautiful in their own right, and certainly worthy of a space in our gardens. They also greatly extend our choices for filling difficult spaces with plants that are often very cost effective to buy - or even free! See wildflowers for bees.


  • For several comprehensive lists of plants, flowers, shrubs, fruit & veg, wildflowers, trees, lawns and plants for problem places, visit my link about Bee Plants. (opens new window).


Attracting Bees To Small Gardens

Bees don't see gardens as separate land entities.  Your garden is part of a larger landscape from which bees and pollinators can search for food.





This means seeing your garden as part of the whole, and adding to the (hopefully many!) possible feeding stations for bees in your local area.

Even if you only have concrete or a balcony, consider pots and hanging baskets, and even window boxes. These can be filled with a range of trailing plants, herbs, bedding flowers attractive to bees and pollinators, such as low growing beeding campanula, beach aster and hardy geraniums.  Imagine if the residents of a high rise apartment block featured hanging baskets filled with nectar and pollen rich plants - we'd have pollinator walls!

Read more tips about gardening for bees in small spaces.


If you are serious about attracting bees, think twice about using pesticides. It's always worth asking yourself:

'If they are killing 'pests', what else are they killing?' 

Doesn't it seem unrealistic to believe that pesticdes conveniently kill 'nasty' insects whilst leaving 'good insects' alone?  You can read more about this on my page about insecticides and non-target insects.   I NEVER use pesticides, yet I grow a variety of vegetables and fruits.  I also understand that most insect species are beneficial.

I have found I can get rid of aphids and many other so called-pests by using a blast of water.

I encourage birds into the garden too, and have a small wild-life pond full of frogs. Also, I ignore wasps (yellow jackets), which I know eat many aphids that might otherwise gobble up my veg.

Note that some bees will nest in lawns (causing no damage to the lawn itself), so why not decide to be relaxed about your lawn, and avoid using chemicals. Take a look at my page about lawns for bees, where there is lots of advice about how to make your lawn more bee-friendly.



Supply Water

Water is helpful not just to bees, but also a range of wildlife. A small wildlife pond with a shallow area would be ideal, but failing that, a simple bird bath or tray of water with a few stones (to create shallow zones) can help.


So you see, attracting bees into your garden need not be difficult, and there are possibilities even in problem zones and limited spaces. We simply need to make more of an effort to consider the bees and other wildlife, as we plan our gardens.







Save the bees
Here are my top 10 tips to save the bees – why not share them with your friends and family?



Planting Wildflowers Helps Bees
Why not write a letter to your local politician, asking them to support the creation of more wildflower habitats, pollinator corridors and even planting schemes that benefit bees and other pollinators.



About Bees
Go from Attracting Bees to my main introductory page, where there are links to lots of bee-related topics. Find out about bee lifecycles, or the answer to the question ‘How Long Do Bees Live’. Learn about the different types of bees and much more.


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Planning And Planting A Bee Friendly Garden





Gardeners Beware!


Did you know?  Bees love lime trees - but some imports are believed to be toxic for bees!

Read more

Excerpt from 'A Sting In The Tale' by Professor Dave Goulson (also author of Bumblebee Behaviour And Ecology):

Page 128:

"Buff-tailed and white tailed bumblebees love the flowers of lime trees, although there is something in the nectar which seems to make them dopey and even sometimes kill them".


If
you have found a bee and don't know what to do, click here

There is very rarely a good reason to remove bumblebee nests.  They only last a season.

Read more