You may not know that honeybees forage for 4 things.
1) Nectar – the sweet liquid from flowers
2) Pollen – vital to plant reproduction, it provides the bees a source of protien
3) Water – hydration is important!
4) Propolis – resins from trees are gathered by bees for many purposes …it is antibacterial!
So when we start to think about planting things in our gardens for bees we have these for things to consider. Perhaps you dont have much space but can place a birdbath or shallow vessel in your garden that will provide access to water for bees. Or maybe you own lots of land and are able to get a grant for planting trees and want to know which varieties are best? In the middle somewhere you might have a garden with some bedding area that you can plant vital sources of nectar and pollen. Whatever you have you can help!
Lets start with flowers, everyone loves to see the colours and smell the fragrance on the breeze, there are many types to choose from but we will concentrate on a few really beneficial varieties for bees:
Snowdrop and crocus – important early pollen sources for bees after winter
Borage – annual herb with edible leaves (and flowers for your pimms) bees love it! (not pimms)
Dandelion – you may see it as a weed to rid your lawn of, but this flower is so important to bee forage all season!
Poppy – a symbol of rememberance, you can remember the bees by planting this great pollen source
Clover – white clover, or trefoil, is a wonderful nitrogen fixing green manure for your garden and its great for bees
Phacelia – another green manure and probably one of the longest nectaer sources available!
Trees are great if you have the space but even some smaller varities are good too. Here are a few trees that are great forage for the honeybee (and other solitary bees too):
Pussy Willow – a great early pollen source
Lime trees – belfast streets are full of this amazing source of nectar and pollen!
Hazel – another early source of pollen for honeybees and lovely nuts later for you
Chestnut – Lovely red pollen is distiguishable to beekeepers when their bees are foraging this tree
Thorn – many types and good for hedging so even a utility plant can be helpful for bees
Thinking along those lines bramble is really good for hedgerows and who doesn’t love picking blackberries! The bees need these type of ‘weeds’ to survive when many other traditional sources of forage are gone!
We hope this has been of use to you. There are plenty of good sites out there that will go into more detail of seasonal planting for pollinators, so don’t be afraid to search google “til yer heart’s content”!