Why are bees so important to us
Bees are the world's most important pollinator of food crops, an estimated whopping 1/3 of food is dependent on pollination. Pollination is basically plant reproduction: by transferring pollen from the male part of the flower to the female part of the flower the plants seed or fruit can be formed. The transfer of pollen can be done by the wind, birds, bats, mammals and of course insect such as bees - bees are so important because they pollinate on such a massive scale - hence the phrase 'busy bees'.
Threats to bees
There are quite a few threats to bees but large factor contributing to the reduction in their numbers is insecticides containing neonicotinoids which affect not just bees but many of our other native invertebrates. The use of neonicotinoids on flowering crops attractive to bees has now been temporarily banned in Europe which is a bit of good news.
Read more about neonicotinoids on our blog here
There are also parasites spreading disease amongst bee colonies. A bite from the varroa mite injects the deadly Deformed Wing Virus into the bees blood and can destroy an entire honey bee colony.
How can you help the bees
- Using organic and manual methods to control pests and weeds instead of using chemicals or pesticides is a good place to start.
- Use organic bulbs which are not treated with systemic insecticides that harm bees and other pollinators.
- Allow some weeds to grow in your garden - bees love a clover lawn, which grows quite easily in Ireland, and also dandelions, nettles and other wildflowers that you can find in your lawn if you let it grow a little!
- Consider growing specific plants that will attract and support bees - even if you don't have a garden at all you can grow pollinator friendly window boxes or hanging baskets in your apartment or house.
- Consult the All Ireland pollinator plan 2015 - 2020 to see what you can do either yourself or in your community
Which flowers and plants are best for the bees
This is not, by any means, an exhaustive list, but these are some popular plants that you can grow to attract bees to your garden.
Clovers - clover is a great way to attract bees and, if you have a lawn, you may find by simply not mowing it (or a patch of it) that it will grow naturally.
Sunflowers - Bees love sunflowers - and so do most people - we have regular and red varieties available.
Edible varieties - Cornflowers, Calendula and nasturtiums are all edible and they also attract bees.
Herbs - Borage, Chives, Lavender, Rosemary, sage & Thyme are all pollinator friendly and can grow well in pots if you are short of space.
Brassicas - Letting some of your brassicas flower (cabbage, Kale, Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli etc.) can help provide food for bees in your garden.
See our full selection of Seeds for Bees section on our website along with some specific bee meadow mixes made up especially for attracting bees to the garden. Please note that No Neoinicotinoids are used on any of our products.
Other ways you can help
David Attenborough has some pertinent advice for helping bees at this time of year:
"This time of year bees can often look like they are dying or dead, however, they're far from it. Bees can become tired and they simply don't have enough energy to return to the hive which can often result in being swept away. If you find a tired bee in your home, a simple solution of sugar and water will help revive an exhausted bee. Simply mix two tablespoons of white, granulated sugar with one tablespoon of water, and place on a spoon for the bee to reach."
You can also leave out a basin of water or, if you have a bird bath make sure it is filled with water, as bees get thirsty and need some water to keep going.