THE humble bee may be the expert when it comes to making delicious honey, but they are also masters of another art - gardening.
Bees play a critical role in the pollination of many fruits and flowers and can be the deciding factor of whether your garden fails or flourishes. By planting a garden fit for bees, you can boost your garden’s growing potential all while supporting the local bee population.
A bee-friendly backyard creates a positive growth cycle in and around your garden. Insects will visit your local area and pollinate many plants in the process, supporting the growth of more flowers, fruits and vegetables in the garden, encouraging more bees to return to the area, and the cycle continues. Bees will forage within a three-kilometre radius of their home, and by creating a bee-friendly garden, you can foster this positive cycle in not just your own garden, but your neighbours’ too.
There are a number of tips and tricks that anyone can follow to design and grow a bee-friendly garden which will not just have your garden thriving but will also support the all-important bee population.
Diversity is key. Bees enjoy a varied diet, so choose a range of flowering species in your garden. Native and open-pollinated plant species are ideally suited as they have evolved to rely on bee pollination. Also, consider plant species that are guaranteed to flower over the warmer months of spring and summer as this is when honeybees collect pollen.
Some examples of native spring- and summer-flowering plants include:
- Native Lilac
- Golden Wattle
- Mānuka Myrtle
- Parkinson’s Rātā
- NSW Christmas Bush
- Ivory Curl Tree
- Marlborough Rock Daisy
Bees will prefer a sunny spot over shade and so while it is great to have a variety of trees in your backyard, it is important to also have open space for them to occupy. As a flying insect, bees also struggle in strong winds. Therefore, it is beneficial to provide shelter from any breeze that might disrupt them. Structured plants such as hedges or vines can create a suitable wind block and will offer the bees good protection.
Access to fresh water can often be overlooked when creating a bee-friendly space, particularly in the warmer months. Water features such as ponds, fountains and bird baths are all excellent sources of water for the insects. It is also beneficial to place floating materials such as corks or plants in these features to give the bees a place to land and access the water.
While insecticides will rid your garden of any pests, they can be fatal to bees. To prevent damaging your garden’s bee population, it is best to avoid insecticides altogether. This will also give the chance for other valuable insects such as lacewings and ladybirds to inhabit your garden and manage the number of pests present, promoting a beneficial bug ecosystem. However, if pesticides are necessary, it is best to choose a chemical that is low in toxicity for bees and to take caution to spray it when bees are least active such as during the night or on a cold day. It is also important to not spray the flowers of any plant that a bee may visit.