The whole planet is to be abuzz with activity for World Bee Day this weekend (Sunday, 20 May).
Ecologists at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) have put together a list of top tips to protect these amazing insects and help your garden grow.
With their bright and colourful array of flowers, gardens provide important food sources for a huge variety of pollinators including bumble bees, honeybees, solitary bees and hoverflies.
A wide variety of flowers, such as aquilegia, borage and nasturtium, require insects to pollinate them to ensure they set seed and appear in your garden year after year. Pollinating insects also visit apples, raspberries, beans and strawberries and they will also ensure you have a bumper crop of fruit and vegetables.
Pollinator top tips:
Ensure a balanced diet – Pollinators require nectar to provide the sugars that power flight and pollen to provide protein for growth and reproduction. Clovers and vetches provide protein-rich pollen while plants such as lavender and borage have sugar-rich nectar. If you are not sure which flowers are beneficial for pollinators, look out for the Royal Horticultural Society’s Plants for Pollinators logo at your local garden centre.
Lay the table – Providing a wide variety of flower shapes will ensure you provide food for a whole range of pollinators. Most hoverflies and some bees, such as the buff-tailed bumblebee, have short mouthparts and prefer to forage on open flowers such as valerian and crocus. Other species such as the garden bumblebees have long tongues and they can reach into deep flowers such as beans and foxgloves.
Keep an inventory – Pollinators require food during their entire activity period (typically March/April until September/October). Undertake a garden inventory to find out what flowers you have and when they flower. Look for gaps when your garden lacks flowers and aim to fill these gaps.
Watch what you weed – It is particularly important to provide food early in the season when bumblebees are emerging for hibernation and establishing nests. Dandelions are another important source of food during this period – so allowing a few weeds to grow is great. Many trees (for example, apple, lime and willow) also flower in spring, providing food.
Open a bee hotel – Pollinators also require shelter and places to nest. Leave areas undisturbed, and create piles of dead wood to provide nesting opportunities for bumblebees, hoverflies and solitary bees. You could even build a solitary bee hotel in a sunny corner of your garden or provide an upturned plant pot filled with hay as a bumblebee nesting site.
SRUC ecologist Dr Lorna Cole said: ‘Insect pollinators are crucial to our wellbeing. They provide us with food on our table and enhance our natural environment with an abundance of flowering plants.
‘If we all provide for these important insects in our gardens, balconies and window boxes then collectively we can make a huge difference throughout our towns and countryside.’