The bee’s knees
Encourage these busy workers: it’s good for them and you
UNLESS you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years you will be well aware that bees are under threat and, without bees, much of the world’s food supply would be threatened.
Australian native bees and European honey bees all contribute to pollination, and there are lots of things that gardeners can do to help them thrive. If you grow fruiting plants then you need bees in your garden, even if you don’t want to have a hive and harvest honey.
There is a fantastic publication produced by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation about planting for bees, called Bee Friendly: A planting guide for European honey bees and Australian native pollinators, by Mark Leech. You can go to their website and download it for free, or you can purchase a printed copy online there, too. Most of the information here is taken from that publication.
Bees need pollen and nectar, so we need to grow a range of flowering plants. Like humans, bees need a balanced diet so plant lots of different varieties to support healthy bees. Also, like humans, bees need food all year so we need to have plants in flower year-round, too. Bees seem particularly attracted to blue, purple, violet, white and yellow flowers, but they will visit flowers of any colour.
Flowers planted in clumps about one metre wide of each species seem to attract more pollinators than individual plants scattered through a garden. Include flowers of different shapes to suit different pollinators.
Open or cup-shaped flowers provide easy access, and short floral tubes are important for honey bees, but other pollinators will benefit from different shapes.
Bees also need easy access to water, so provide fresh water but make sure that the bees can access it without drowning. Bowls containing wet sand or pebbles are recommended.
Some good plants to include in a bee-friendly garden include basil, coriander, oregano, parsley, lavender, lemon balm, sage, thyme, alyssum, celosia, cornflower, cosmos, echinacea, foxglove, geranium, marigold, rose, sunflower, zinnia, camellia, angelonia, salvia, bacopa, tea tree, brachycome, scaevola, grevillea, eucalypt, lemon myrtle, callistemon and citrus trees.
Bees are sensitive to chemicals, including pesticides, herbicides and some chemicals found in non-organic fertilisers. Choose fertilisers based on organic materials. Learn to tolerate a bit of damage to your plants. If you do need to spray, start with the softest option first, and always follow the instructions on the package. See a horticulturist if you need advice.
THE HONEY BEE HAS BEEN AROUND FOR 30 MILLION YEARS Australian native bees and European honey bees all contribute to pollination.