Above: Red-tailed bumblebee (Queen) on berberis
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.
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. 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.
Above: bumblebee on Escallonia
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.
Ribes (Flowering Currant)
Alder (Alnus glutinosa)
Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)
Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis)
Winter Honeysuckle climber great for hedgerows (Lonicera fragrantissima and L. x purpussii)
Alnus (A. cordata; A.incana; A. glutinosa)
Hazels - Corylus (C. avellana, C. maxima) again, great trees for bees - especially for pollen
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra)
Wild cherry (Prunus avium)
Sour cherry (Prunus cerasus)
Joshino cherry (Prunus xyeodensis)
Bird cherry (Prunus padus)
Mountain ash (sorbus)
Wild roses and Rosa rugosa
Guelder rose (Viburnum oppulus)
Cotoneaster - various species
American lilac (Ceanothus)
June Berry (Snowy mespilus)
Wild Dog Rose (Rosa Canina)
Wayfaring tree (viburnum lantana)
Common Privet (Ligustrum vulgare)
Hydrangea paniculata (pictured above - one of the few varieties of Hydrangea enjoyed by bees)
Lime trees - but select carefull, because some lime trees are toxic for, or have narcotic effects on bees
Note: when we buy plants to attract bees, we want to feed the bees, and obviously, we do not want to 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.
Try to rethink your use of pesticides. Did you know, most insect species are harmless or beneficial?
More links here about how to attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators into your garden, including lists of plants for bees.
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