Natural World: Japanese bees kill a 'murder hornet' in 2007
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Bees are just an annoying, fuzzy black and orange insect seen during the warmer months for many people. But in actuality they’re so much more than that, and have an invaluable role to play in maintaining the planet. Where trees and woods are vital to filter the air, bees are essential to both pollinate the food we need to survive and pollinate many of the trees and flowers that provide habitats for wildlife. Often seen buzzing from flower-to-flower, it can be hard to imagine a life without bees – but it’s sadly becoming more and more of a possibility.
How to attract bees to your garden
Create diverse plantings
The Woodland Trust advises to aim for a good variety of pollen-rich flowers that have different shapes and range of flowering periods.
Flowering periods should range from early spring to late summer, and even through the winter if possible.
Bumblebee species have different length tongues that are adapted to feed from different shaped flowers.
For example, the longest tongued variety, Bombus Hortorum, prefers deeper flowers like foxgloves and honeysuckle.
In general, avoid plants with double or multi-petalled flowers as pollinators find them more difficult to access. These kinds of flowers also often lack nectar and pollen.
Plant wildflowers and native species
Native plants have evolved alongside native insects, and some rare species tend to favour native wildflowers.
There are other benefits to growing them too – they can be easy to maintain and are often relatively resistant to pests and other insects.
Some trees and shrubs are also an ideal spot for bees as they provide tonnes of flowers in one place.
Choose winter and early spring flowering trees like apples, wild cherry, hazel and willow.
The Woodland Trust has a range of sourced and grown native trees within the UK and Ireland, which you can find here.
Steer clear of pesticides
Pesticides and insecticides are lethal to bees – as the name would suggest.
Common insecticides that contain neonicotinoids (thiacloprid and acetamirprid) will kill the bees around it very quickly.
They are still approved for home and garden use and can be bought at most garden centres and DIY shops.
If you’re buying a pesticide or insecticide then read the label and avoid using ones that will murder the bees.
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Make a bee house
Create insect houses in your garden to make nice nesting sites for solitary bees and insects.
Different bee species require different habitats.
You can make your own simple bee house or you can buy a commercially-made bee house.
Fix bee boxes in a south-facing spot but not in direct sunlight. Also make sure the entrance points downwards so that rain doesn’t get in.
Retain lawn weeds
Lawn weeds such as dandelions are excellent bee plants, providing vital pollen early on in the season.
White clover attracts masses of honeybees, while the longer tongued bumblebees usually prefer red clover.
If you can’t bear to let your lawn grow, consider leaving a patch that’s less frequently mown.
This will give them a much better chance of flowering.
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