Just as we’re rolling out of bed and searching for our first coffee hit in the morning, thousands of honey bees are also warming up their wings and flying from their hive in search of something a little sweeter.
Of course there’s the honey. But us humans often forget the most important job that our buzzing friends do is pollinating edible plants.
So, here’s how you can do your bit in the backyard for the bee population and I implore you to implement a few of these suggestions come spring.
Hedges: Give the shears a rest if your hedge is about to flower. Many people cut off new growth during flowering times which means the bees miss out on precious nectar opportunities.
Clover in the lawn: Resist the temptation to spray clover, bees need it to forage.
Herbicides and pesticides: Are you spraying weeds or targeting pests? Insect populations are declining, including bees, so switch to an organic approach to gardening – you can get just as good results with organic products, I promise you.
Perennials and herbs: Try buying some smaller plants that encourage bees like rosemary, thyme, lavender, salvia, echinacea, heliotrope, cornflower, echium, or plectranthus.
Bee seed mix: If you want a cheap, no-fuss way to create an instant wild flower garden for your local bees, buy a “beneficial bug” or “bee flower” seed mix at the nursery or online. Scatter seeds over soil or in a pot in spring. You’ll find several varieties of herbs and small flowering plants emerge in an array of colour and form.
Green roofs and verge gardens: Can you utilise an empty rooftop or verge to create a low-maintenance native garden? Pigface, banksia, grevillea, tea-tree, dwarf gum trees, midjim berry and even hardy edible herbs can be mixed in. Mixing native and exotic plants into the overall landscape should give your buzzing mates a succession of flowering times through the seasons.
Native bees: We have around 1500 native bee species in Australia and I have set many of these hives up in backyard gardens to increase pollination and biodiversity. Kids love watching these little stingless bees go about their busy schedules. You can buy them online and have them arrive in the post – easy as 1, 2, Bee.
European beehive: Why not go all out and become a beekeeper? It’s so much easy than you might think to set up your own hive at home. I recommend doing a practical weekend course and even join your local bee club to share ideas and equipment. Oh, and not to mention the honey you’ll have!
Bee book: If you’re hungry for more info, check out the practical Bee Friendly Garden Book by Australian author and bee legend Doug Purdie.
It’s achievable to create a garden that can be included in a bee’s stopover, giving them and other beneficial insects a habitat and food source. Your edible garden and fruit trees will prosper and the diversity of plants – managed with an organic approach – will create a more robust and healthy garden environment for you (and our bees) to enjoy.