What Can You Do?

You may not be a beekeeper but you can still help bees.

Some may panic when they see bees buzzing around them – bees have a painful sting after all. But bees have very little interest in people and the breeds of honeybee in the UK are not aggressive. Flying bees are looking for plants (or sometimes water), but they can become confused and attracted by some sweet smells like perfume – or particularly honey! If you are afraid of bees, move away from where they are flying rather than swatting at them, you are much less likely to be stung.

Bees live for the hive, and once they are mature enough to fly away to forage they do all they can to collect pollen. By planting the right kinds of plants, you can attract bees to your garden or window box. Here are a few examples:

Lavender – Instantly identifiable, lavender has an iconic colour and scent, and is attractive to bees – not least because bees see purple more clearly than any other colour. Blooms from June to August.

Marjoram – Studies from the University of Sussex have found Marjoram to be the most popular plant for all pollinators including bumble and honeybees, hover flies, and butterflies and moths. Closely related to oregano, marjoram is a herb which is used fresh to add a delicate flavour to Greek or Italian dishes. Sow and grow inside until early summer and then move it outside to a sunny, sheltered spot.

Ivy – Often seen more as a pest that strangles trees and wrecks flower beds, evergreen ivy actually provides bees with much of their pollen and nectar in its flowering autumn months when bees build up their winter stores and other sources are in decline.

Borage Blue – A plant with beautiful looking flowers, very popular with honeybees. The flowers can be used to decorate summer drinks and puddings, freeze in ice cubes, or even wilt the leaves for pasta sauce. Plant after the last date of frost in a herb or flower garden, ideally near strawberries to attract bees and increase your fruit yield.

Rhododendron – A hardy plant flowering in spring, very pleasing to the eye and a favourite among bees. There is a large variety of Rhododendrons, but Marcel Menard is a particularly good choice to attract bees with its pollen rich, purple coloured flowers.