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5 ideas to help bees

Beekeeping's not for everyone, but small acts of kindness make a big difference for our nation's 250+ species of buzzing bee.

Put the mower away...

Leaving an area of your garden to grow wild gives solitary bees and bumble bees extra foraging options. Why? Well, the wildflowers that grow will bring more diverse flower shapes to your garden, allowing a more varied cross section of bee species (some of which have different lengths of tongue) to access the pollen and nectar inside. Even waiting a bit longer between grass-cuts can help, letting daisies, dandelions and clover in your lawn come to flower for honeybees to enjoy. What better excuse to put your feet up?

Plant a flowering tree...

Flowering trees come in all sizes, from the perfect patio pear to a broad, blossoming cherry. Even better, a tree in flower can provide bees with an area of forage equivalent to one acre of land. Your tree will host other beneficial insects too, including hoverflies, beetles and ladybirds. Opting for trees that flower in winter or early spring (such as witch hazel, or winter-flowering cherry varieties) will fill the 'hungry gaps' either side of summer flowering, when honeybees might struggle to find food.

Grow ‘nutrient-rich’ gardens…

Rethinking your planting can help you bring more nutrients to your garden. First things first: reduce the size of your lawn and increase your flower borders. Opt for bee-friendly plants such as spring bulbs (crocus, snowdrops, muscari), bright summer blooms (verbena, rudbeckia, echinacea) or cottage garden flowers (foxgloves, poppies, honeysuckle, hollyhocks, roses) that are high in pollen and have varied shapes. It’s best to avoid intensively-bred bedding plants with complicated (and inaccessible) flowers. If in doubt, scatter wildflower seed around paths to increase your diversity of blooms.

Create more housing…

Did you know that dead stalks make great winter homes for solitary bees? Make a tidy pile of stalks and canes and you have your own bee hotel. What’s more, large gardens may be the perfect place to host a hive of honeybees. Your local beekeeping association can match you to a beekeeper who’ll be happy to do the skilled work in exchange for a spot in your garden.

Get creative…

No garden? No problem. Whether you have a balcony, sunny back step or window boxes, pots of flowering herbs (such as thyme, comfrey, chives or borage) can transform a lifeless space into happy foraging territory for busy bees. Local community gardens and allotments create more chances to make your local area more hospitable to honeybees.