Hedgerows, Shrubs and Trees for Bees
If you are wanting to include plants to attract bees in your garden, it's easy to forget about trees, shrubs and hedgerows! Yet they provide a number of benefits relating to food and shelter for different species.
Now if you are looking for general lists of garden plants, herbs, wildflowers, or fruit and vegetables for bees, please visit this page. You'll find lists of plants to attract bees, and there there are links to further articles and general thoughts about organic gardening etc, at the bottom of this page.
Why are trees, shrubs, and hedgerows excellent "bee plants"?
Firstly, trees, hedgerows and shrubs can provide nesting opportunities for bees, which may make their nests in abandoned rodent holes found at the base of a shrub, or in hollows, crevices or holes within the bark of a tree trunk.
Secondly, they also provide excellent foraging potential. When we are looking for plants to attract bees and butterflies, we know that good bee plants feed the bees. A decent sized shrub may be densely covered in nectar and pollen-rich flowers. This means foraging is efficient, requiring less energy for the bees to fly about in search of further sources of food. The image at the top of this page shows a berberis, and a number of varieties of the berberis shrub are welcomed by many bee species.
Even the hollow stems of shrubs can be useful to bees. Tiny solitary bees may hibernate or make nests in them. For example, the tiny harebell carpenter bee is only about 6 or 7mm in size and can easily be mistaken for a little black fly. It may create its nests in hollow stems of plants (or even in woodworm and beetle holes). Bumblebees meanwhile, may take cover in piles of fallen leaves. The lesson is, please take care when tidying your garden! Perhaps hollow shrub stems could be collected and placed in a corner of the garden or behind the shed, for example.
Of course, you'll generally find that hedgerows, trees and shrubs for bees also provide excellent cover and food for wildlife generally, including other insect pollinators. Furthermore, as the bees pollinate the flowers, the flowers develop into fruits, berries and nuts, which are then enjoyed by humans, of course, but also birds and small mammals. For me, there is nothing better than to watch wildlife in the garden - it provides entertainment, wonder, and a bit of natural garden "pest control".
Remember that in some cases, it will also
be possible to underplant your trees and shrubs with yet more plants to
attract to bees, such as Snake's head fritillary, bluebells, and other
flower bulbs. However, please see my note about not buying or lacing your plants with pesticides.
LATE WINTER - SPRING shrubs, hedgerows and trees for bees:
Acacia (A. dealbata & A. longifolia)
Cherry Plum - Myrobalan (Prunus cerasifera)
Pussy Willow (Salix) - these are great trees for bees, as they provide an early source of pollen
Ribes (Flowering Currant)
Alder (Alnus glutinosa)
Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)
Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis)
Winter Honeysuckle ¨C climber great for hedgerows (Lonicera fragrantissima and L. x purpussii)
Alnus (A. cordata; A.incana; A. glutinosa)
Hazels - Corylus (C. avellana, C. maxima) ¨C again, great trees for bees - especially for pollen
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra)
SPRING - SUMMER shrubs, hedgerows and trees for bees:
Wild cherry (Prunus avium)
Sour cherry (Prunus cerasus)
Joshino cherry (Prunus xyeodensis)
Bird cherry (Prunus padus)
Mountain ash (sorbus)
Guelder rose (Viburnum oppulus)
Cotoneaster - various species
American lilac (Ceanothus)
June Berry (Snowy mespilus)
Wild Dog Rose (Rosa Canina)
Wayfaring tree (viburnum lantana)
SUMMER - AUTUMN shrubs, hedgerows and trees for bees:
Common Privet (Ligustrum vulgare)
AUTUMN - WINTER shrubs, hedgerows and trees for bees
Chinese Euodia (Tetradium daniellii hupehensis)
Ivy - hedera helix
Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo)
A word about Lime Trees
Some species are considered excellent for bees, whilst others are poisonous. Read more here.
Note: when we buy plants to attract bees, we want to feed the bees, not poison them! If you can, try to purchase your plants from an organic supplier, to ensure they have not been cultivated using controversial neonicotinoid insecticides.
Neonicotinoids are systemic, meaning they permeate the whole plant and can contaminate nectar and pollen (creating a toxic plant for bees!). They can remain in the soil for years. If you cannot find an organic supplier, speak with your local nursery or grower. See my link about organic gardening for bees.
Friends of the Earth in the USA have raised concerns about plants being cultivated using neonicotinoids. Is such cultivation using neonicotinoids happening in other countries?
Try to rethink your use of pesticides. Did you know, most insect species are harmless of beneficial?
More links here about how to attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators into your garden, including lists of plants for bees.
How many times per second can a bumblebee beat it's wings?
(clicking on the link opens a new window)
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