Bee friendly garden: how to make your garden bee friendly

Bee friendly garden

How to make your garden bee friendly

Can you remember the days when your windshields of your car have been “decorated” with insects?
The days where you needed to wash your car regularly, not because of mud and dust but because of the smashed insects on your car?
And how is it today? Have you realized too that it’s not like that anymore? That cars are clean from insects?

Or have you been sitting close to a flower bed lately? And missed the endless humming of insects and bees? 
Yeah me too. I miss this sound. And while I am writing this post, I am in Zadar, Croatia and was so happy to see bees flying and humming outside of our window in a pink blossoming tree.

 If the polar bear is endangered we are all sad and angry. It is a big and very interesting animal. But it is not essential for our survival…
If we talk about endangered insects most humans first don’t really care. Insects are sometimes annoying (mosquitoes, ticks, wasps…) we are afraid about bugs and other small insects. Most of them are so small we don’t even know about them. Still they are very very important. 

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Why do we need bees/insects?

Insects are everywhere. They are by far the most common animals on our planet. More than 1.5 million insect species have been named. This is the triple number of all other animals together. However, some say that the insects whose name is given represent only a small fraction of insects in nature. Many are still to be discovered.

We can find insects in almost every imaginable habitat. 

Their size, shape, color, biology and life history are so diverse that studying insects is absolutely mesmerizing.

Without insects, our lives would be completely different. 

Insects pollinate many of our fruits, flowers and vegetables. We would not have much of the products we can look forward to and rely on without the pollinating services of insects, not to mention honey, beeswax, silk and other beneficial insect-supplying products. 

 

Many insects are predatory or parasitic, either to plants or to other insects or animals, including humans. 

Such insects are important in nature to keep pests (insects or weeds) at a tolerable level. We call this the balance of nature. Predatory and parasitic insects are very valuable in attacking other animals or plants that we consider to be pests.

Insects are very important as primary or secondary decomposers. 

Without insects helping to mine and dispose of waste, dead animals and plants would accumulate in our environment, and that would indeed be messy.

Insects are underestimated for their role in the food web. 

They are the only food source for many amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Insects themselves are harvested and consumed by humans in some cultures. Rich in protein, vitamins and minerals, they are considered delicacies in many Third World countries. In fact, it is difficult to find an insect that is not eaten by humans in one form or another. The most popular are cicadas, grasshoppers, praying mantises, maggots, caterpillars, crickets, ants and wasps.

Despite all the positive features, some insects can cause problems. 

Unfortunately, most of the few insects that cause problems are more aware than the many beneficial insects. Uninformed people think that all insects are bad and need all control. We must always remember that the good that is done by the many beneficial insects far outweighs the disadvantages of some pests. Nevertheless, texts like this one are written about the relatively few insect pests that cause us harm.

Why are bees endangered?

So why bees and other insects are actually endangered and some of them almost extinct and many already extinct? 

The main threats to insects include habitat destruction, displacement from introduced species, habitat modification by chemical contaminants (eg, pesticides), hybridization with other species, and over-harvesting (agriculture).

Plus: more and more people now actually fancy concrete gardens. Not much work to do, no insects, no dirt… They “plant” their gardens with stones, and have no real flowers or “dirty” soil in their gardens anymore….

What can we do?

Support organic farmer. 

Buy local and organic fresh produce.

Sign petitions and vote for politicians that are pro environment.

You can buy or make seed bombs (how to make seed bombs) and do some guerrilla gardening. (plant flowers/throw seeds on parts in your neighborhoods where nobody (the city) is planting anything anymore. 

Support wild bees. Don’t just focus on honey bees!!
Make your garden or balcony or roof: Great Again… I mean: Bee Friendly again;)!

If you have a garden, even a small one, you can encourage your local bees to visit regularly. 

Bee keeping

While many people like to start beekeeping or even make their own honey, it is also very, if not even more important to support wild bees. We shouldn’t focus only on one species, but we should try to save others too.

But if you are interested in honey bees and beekeeping maybe these two books are interesting for you:

How to build your own bee hive for your backyard.

Bees love tree blossoms

10 tips for a bee friendly garden

Not only bees and insects will have benefits from a bee friendly garden, you will have too.

A bee friendly garden has a variety of colorful and maybe even perfumed flowers that bloom throughout the seasons.
It not only looks and smells more beautiful for you, it attracts beneficial insects that can help to reduce pests. Means, less effort for you. 

Improves the quality of your fruits and veggies. And increases your harvest.

Honey bees collect nectar from flowers as a food source for energy.
While they hunt for nectar, they gather pollen on their back legs. These get bigger and bigger and at the end they carry this back to the nest to provide proteins and fats for their babies.

Flowers offer a sugary bribe to pollinators.
They do so to attract pollinators to use their free pollination services. Some of them have extremely incredible strategies for luring bees and other pollinators to sample their wares too! They attract them with their shape, smell, colour, quantity and quality of nectar and pollen.

If you have no garden experience yet, maybe this book is of interest for you. “The shoestring gardener – frugal, eco friendly gardening tutorial.”

1) Aim for flowering all year round

Choose local native varieties of flowering plants that flower at different times of the year so you have flowers all year round.
It is important to keep in mind when each species is in full bloom so you can provide food to bees throughout the year / in Spring / Summer. This also provides variety and variation of nectar in their diet.

Long flowering species, full of nectar and pollen, will also encourage bees to stay longer than ephemeral annuals.

2) Allow herbs and vegetables to flower

When your vegetables are done, do not pull them all out! If your flowers are full, do not cut them off immediately. If you have limited space, let at least one or two flowers bloom and set the seed.
While you sacrifice the space in your garden to a flowering vegetable or herb, you help feed the bees. And after the flower is finished, the seeds for other animals, such as. small birds
The bonus? When the plant finishes its life cycle, you reap the rewards of free seed, and you can compost the rest of the plant to recycle nutrients!

3) Grow fruits trees and berries and herbs

If you have the room, try growing at least one dwarf fruit tree – even in a large pot. Ideally, breed several and, if possible, include a citrus variety. Fruit trees provide bees with a mass of fragrant flowers that they can feed on for a long time. A lot of flowers helps them to save energy by looking for food in one place.

If you can, plant your fruit trees with flat-rooted flowers to attract the bees and encourage pollination.

If you can, underplant your fruit trees with shallow rooted flowers to attract the bees and boost pollination.

Wild rosemary in Croatia. And always a bee close by...

4) Provide water

Bees need easy access to clean fresh water. It must be in a shallow container or “bee bath” so that they do not drown. A birdbath is just too deep. Add pebbles, stones or wet sand so bees can safely drink water.

5) Provide a chemical free refuge

Have a 100% non-toxic zone for bees as well as your family, pets, birds, wildlife and other insects. A biological, pesticide-free and ecologically sustainable garden is a magnet for bees and other beneficial insects such as ladybirds, hoverflies, mantis, spiders and wasps. These insects help you balance many pests such as aphids, dandruff, moths, grasshopper and caterpillars. Some of these insects also feed on nectar. If you stay in your garden, you can also eat other insects, saving you time, money and effort in pest control. Main bonus!

6) Be colour wise with flowers

Research indicates that bees have favorite colors and are drawn by flowers that are rich in nectar. Bees can see UV light and a range of blues, violets, yellows and greens, but not red. Bees see the flower colors differently than we do. The patterns are like signposts telling the bees where to look for the nectar. So always try to plant a variety of blue, purple, purple and yellow flowers if you can

7) Grow fragrant flowers

However, bees are also attracted to very heavily patterned and strongly fragrant flowers. Often those who have a fragrant perfume. While you should include blue, violet and yellow flowers, bees are often attracted by fragrant, vividly colored flowers. 

8) Grow climbers vertically

Try to make good use of your vertical space, for example: B. blooming species on trellises, fences and walls to grow. This not only looks attractive and opens up new opportunities to grow more plants, but also benefits bees. Climbing plants help bees access to flowers for food and foliage, and protect them from rain. Many single bees (living carpenter and mine bees) also find nesting sites and building materials in mulch, leaves and soil under the plants.

9) Provide a protected sunny spot

Bees prefer foraging in a sheltered position, away from strong winds, heavy rain and strong shadows. Take into account the position of your pots or flowering plants within your own microclimate in the garden and, if possible, choose the most favorable position. Likewise, you can provide individual bees with an insect hotel or a bee nest in a sheltered habitat. Safe dry habitat is crucial for a bee-friendly garden. Get to know the native species in your area and the nesting needs. In my garden, Leaf Cutter Bees chew small circles in my arrow root and rose petals to build their nests. Although I often do not see them in my garden, I know they are there!

10) Leave a wild corner/plant wild flower seeds

Plants such as dandelion and thistles provide bees with a rich source of nectar. Instead of pulling them out, wait for them to flower and cut their heads before seeds form. These weeds also add vital nutrients to your compost. So if you provide a free meal with nectar and pollen for “bed and board”, you can easily create a bee-friendly garden. 

So it would be perfect to leave a corner in your garden for some wild flowers if you don’t have a big garden with a lawn and weeds. If you have a lawn, let the wild flowers grow and flower a while before you cut the lawn. Or leave at least one part where the flowers and grass is allowed to grow.

Find the right plants for your garden

I could recommend some plants here, but as we are all spread out in the world, and every garden and area is different, I would like to encourage you to go to a local shop and get some local species for your garden. Make sure to tell them how your garden is located. Is it sunny the whole day, or half of shade the most of the time. Dry or wet area, etc. So you can find the perfect plants for your individual garden.

If you only have a terrace or balcony: herbs like lavender, thymine, etc are great for bees. Echinacea and sunflowers too. Just make sure to let them blossom. So don’t cut them too early.

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