Creating a Bee Friendly Garden
Honeybee numbers are reducing all around the world, making it important that we NZ gardeners do all we can to create a bee friendly garden at home. The importance of their role as a major pollinator cannot be underestimated, as they pollinate 80% of all flowering plants on earth. Without their pollination services, both ornamental and food plant sources would be seriously depleted.
How to Have a Bee Friendly Garden
There are several things you can do to encourage bees to visit and stay within your garden. These include:
- Provide a water source – bees do require access to super shallow water sources from which to drink. This could be in the form of a saucer with
water, or a bird bath with pebbles on which the bees could land upon.
- Plant annual flowers – there are several annual flowers that bees find attractive, such as sunflowers, pansies, and daffodils. Avoid red flowers as bees can’t see this colour, instead choosing white, blue, yellow, purple, and orange.
- Plant NZ native trees – NZ native trees are adored by bees! We especially recommend the flowering trees of Mānuka and Kanuka. Both are easy to grow, require little maintenance and are wind, drought, and frost tolerant. They dislike waterlogged soils, so careful consideration as to location and soil preparation is required. You may even find yourself wanting to become a beekeeper, as we all know manuka honey is delicious!
- Plant in clusters – instead of planting lots of varieties, put clusters of the same flowering annuals or trees together. Planted clusters are bee magnets.
- Avoid pesticides – those aphids on your roses and white butterflies on your cabbages are seriously annoying. But swapping your spray for companion planting can help keep the unwanted populations at bay, and not kill off the bees!
- Plant for the calendar – it’s a rare plant that will flower all year long. Select a variety of flowering trees and shrubs to keep bees happy and pollinating your garden.
You may have heard of insect hotels, ‘man-made homes’ containing nooks and crannies that bugs love to live in. While the introduced honeybees do live in hive colonies, the native bees are solitary and like to live in the soil in small groups of nests. Rather than creating a bug hotel, you would be better off having a wide variety of flowering plants, and especially the native Mānuka and Kanuka trees!