Bee-friendly gardening: what you need to know
Whether you have a small patio, or a large garden, growing flowers is an effective way to help Britain's bees and other pollinating insects, such as hoverflies.
Like us, bees need food, water and shelter. They love plants which are rich in nectar and pollen, and need them all year round, not just in summer. Nectar contains sugar for energy, while pollen contains protein and oils – forming a balanced diet.
As bees move between flowers of the same plant, they also pollinate them, helping our gardens to thrive.
Surprisingly, research shows that urban gardens, streets and parks are as important for helping bees and other pollinators as the countryside is – because they tend to have a bigger choice of plants for bees to visit all year round.
10 easy ways to help bees in your garden
What could be lovelier than a garden buzzing with insect life, colour and fragrance all year?
With bees in trouble, our gardens are vital fast-food takeaways for bees and other beneficial bugs. As well as serving up a varied menu of plants they provide the shelter and nesting places bees need.
What's more, bee-friendly gardening is more likely to be responsible gardening - growing the right plants, and avoiding chemicals in the garden
Read our 10 easy ways to help attract bees and other pollinators to your patch.
Grow 5 bee-friendly herbs
Herbs are easy to grow, and some are a valuable source of food for our bees and other pollinating insects. They also have the benefit of adding fantastic flavour to our meals.
Short of space? Try marjoram, thyme, chives , sage or creeping rosemary in a pot. If you have more space in a sunny border, try a rosemary shrub.
Angelica, with its nectar-rich flowers, will attract plenty of early bees and other pollinators, and unlike many other herbs, can thrive in partial shade. Fennel is rich in nectar and pollen, and will attract a variety of solitary bees, such as Mining bees and Yellow-faced bees, as well as Bumblebees and Honey bees.
Build a bee hotel
A great way to help solitary bees in your garden is by providing for their needs, with a bee hotel, food - from nectar and pollen rich plants - and a water supply.
Use our step-by-step guide to build a bee hotel - or bee house - for solitary bees.
Do bees drink water? Yes, they need refreshment
Like humans, bees need water. Water is essential for honey bees to make food for their young, and keep their hive cool and humid. They collect water during the summer months.
Fill a bucket or tray with water – preferably rain water – and put a few stones in it that are large and stable enough to give bees a safe place to drink from. Floating old wine corks on the surface also gives bees something to land on. Got a pond? Try adding floating-leaved plants, wine corks or rocks to give bees a landing pad.
Think you can't help bees if you don't have a garden? Think again.
Want to help bees but live in a concrete jungle? Not enough space? No garden? No problem.
We spoke to some of the people who are turning grey to green and helping bees and wildlife in our cities.
Find out how these 6 inspiring groups are making havens for hungry bees.
Get your Bee Saver Kit
Let's cover the country with bee-friendly wildflowers!
Search our Bee Savers Map to discover how many nature-lovers are already creating habitats to help bees and other pollinating insects.
Our Bee Saver Kit contains all you need to get started and bring some colour to your garden, school or planters.
The kit includes wildflower seeds to provide valuable food for a range of bees, a bee identification guide, a garden planner and bee guide.
Make a wildflower meadow for bees
Wildflowers such as cornflowers, cowslips, and the common poppy are all brilliant for bees and other wildlife. Pick up wildflower seed mixes at your local garden centre, or by ordering a Bee Saver Kit from us.
Here are a few simple steps to get wildflowers blooming in your garden. The ideal time to do this is September or October because this mimics the natural cycle when flowers typically drop their seeds. You can also sow wildflower seeds in spring.
- Remove any vegetation or turf. Alternatively, use a strimmer or lawnmower to cut the grass as short as possible, and then rake the ground to reveal patches of bare soil.
- Wildflowers thrive in unfertile soil. Remove the topsoil, or dig the soil over to a depth of at least 15 cm to reveal the less fertile soil below.
- Scatter the seeds lightly. Use 3 quarters of a teaspoon of seeds per square metre. You can mix the seeds with sand first, to aid even sowing.
- After sowing, lightly rake the surface and firm down with the end of a rake or your feet. Water the soil if you're sowing during a dry period.