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The number of bees in the UK is declining at an alarming rate but you can help. It is suggested that the decline in native wild flower grassland could be one of the causes of a decline in bees. These flowers provide crucial food for the bees and with this food supply becoming scarce; many of our bumblebee species are struggling to survive.

Bees play a key role in pollinating many crops. 35% of our diet depends on pollination of crops by bees! Bees and other pollinating insects are estimated to contribute over £400 million to the UK economy per year in food production.

You can help them

Collectively, gardens in the UK equate to over a million acres. If all these garden contained more bee friendly flowers and habitat for bees, this would increase both food and shelter for native bumblebees, which would help reverse their decline.

What you can do

Make a bee house or buy a commercially made bee house. Different species require different habitats. Bee houses are for solitary bees not honeybees. If you want to attract more honeybees you can look at a hive or letting a beekeeper put a hive in your garden.

Hollow bamboo canes make a good nesting place for some species. Others will prefer a pile of logs, which is easy to make by piling some logs up and leaving them.

Planting flowers for bees

Aim for a variety of pollen rich flowers that have a range of flowering periods from early spring to late summer and have different flower shapes. Avoid double flowers as these are hard for bees and other insects to access, plus they are lacking in nectar and pollen.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started: Foxgloves, Lavender, Calendula, Cat Mint, Bee Balm, Ice Plant, Purple Loosestrife, Borage, Wallflower, Cosmos, Scabious, Verbena bonariensis, Marigolds (buy varieties with open centres), Dahlias (not the double variety)

Top tips when planting for wildlife:

Leave some of your culinary herbs to flower – they are a rich food source for insects Choose single-flowered varieties of plants instead of double.
Don’t clear up in the autumn, leave until the spring. The dead plants provide valuable shelter for insects over winter.
Don’t use insecticides as these will kill bees and other pollinators too.
Busy as a bee – Bees are hardworking and sometimes become exhausted. If you find one on the ground, they are probably resting but you can give them a boost. Mix some sugar and water in a spoon and place it so the bee can drink it. This will revive them and give them the energy they need to carry on being busy.

by Suzanne Smith

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