May has seen both the UN’s World Bee Day on May 20th and a campaign called ‘No Mow May’ (to be followed by ‘let it bloom June’ and then ‘knee high July’). May is a busy month for bees and beekeepers alike when typically, the weather is warm and hot and nectar and pollen are abundant.
Plant life charity have been promoting ‘No Mow May’ to allow all sorts of creatures and insects to thrive in longer grass. Bees in particular will benefit from the diversity of an abundance of different flowers in your lawn which will provide them with a feast of nectar.
Generally, people are becoming increasingly aware of how important bees are in our food chain. A third of our food relies directly on pollination by bees which includes the majority of our fruit, nuts and vegetables with grain crops being the main crop pollinated by wind. Globally bees are said to represent $30 billion a year in crops and without bees it is estimated that it would cost £1.8 billion a year for farmers to pollinate crops without them.
Friends of the Earth reports that since 1900, the UK has lost 13 species of bee with 25 more under threat of extinction. Reasons for this decline include habitat loss (which is where No Mow May can help), changes in land use, pollution, climate change, disease, farming practices and invasive non-native plants and animals.
For our own bee friendly gardens, we can avoid the use of pesticides and weed killers (garlic sprays and slug traps work well), embrace natural areas and plant fruit trees and native hedges. When it comes to planting have flowers for all seasons with a mix of nectar rich and pollen rich, try to have purple ones as bees see purple more clearly and tubular plants such as Fox Gloves, Honey Suckle, Penstemons and Snapdragons help long tongued bees such as the garden bumblebee.
Words: Jennie Eastick, Amateur gardener and Office Manager