Bees are the most important pollinators of food crops in the world.
Native bees (bumble, carder and mountain bees) are most effective, while the honeybee is a source not only of pollination, but of honey, wax and a wide range of medicinal and cosmetic products. Honeybees have had a hard time, between varroa mites, pesticides and viruses, and loss of wild habitat has affected the natives.
It’s not surprising that so many people who love gardens and flowers love bees. Many, like ourselves, are beekeepers. Gardeners and beekeepers have become pivotal, in both ecology and economy.
There is a favourite saying of mine: “No bees, no honey; no work, no money”. But more to the point, no bees, no pollination; no pollination, no crops. And no crops, no…..? Yes. We are dependent on them.
By growing nectar plants to attract bumblebees, ensure a good honey crop from your own bees or just to enjoy the summery drone of insects in the garden, you’ll benefit all species – and get great fruit and bean crops to boot!
For long-tongued bumblebees we recommend Bergamot, Comfrey, Hemp Agrimony, Sage, Purple Knapweed and Valerian.
For honeybees and short-tongued bees grow Hyssop, Mint, Lemon Balm (said to stop honeybees from swarming!), Meadowsweet, Meadow Cranesbill and Catmint.
For an early source of nectar when the queens start laying, you must have Lungwort and Rosemary; for the important pre-winter nectar grow Purple Loosestrife, Globe Thistle, Teasel and Michaelmas Daisy.
Cotoneaster, apples, pears, non-ornamental cherries and currants (flowering or fruiting) will benefit both bees and birds.
The little-known (and under-used) Agastache family (especially Anise Hyssop and Korean Mint) are magnets for all kinds of bees and create superb colour in the garden as well.