Bees are Causing a Buzz at Cortiça Boutique...
You might have seen our new Honey Bee themed vegan jewellery, a cheeky bumble bee cartoon, or watched a documentary about bees. Sweet and docile little creatures right? But bees don't just look cute, nor are they aimlessly buzzing from one flower to the next to fill their bellies; they're absolutely one of the busiest and most important creatures on our planet!
In this article we're going to tell you all about how to make your garden bee-beautiful this summer, and attract these cute little critters into your garden. First though, we're going to give you some good old facts about bees which you might not have known, or maybe you're an expert and we can help 'beefresh' your memory!
How Many Bees are There?
Now, we're not talking about how many individual bees are buzzing around in the world - we'll get to that later. But how many types of bee are there? We can all name a few off the top of our heads. The big and fluffy bumble bee, their distinctive black and yellow bodies buzzing past you slowly on a warm day, and of course, there's the honey bee, which live in big hives and are considerably smaller than their bumble bee cousins. There's two at least. Or is it? Bumble bees, known by scientists as members of the "Bombus" genus, have over 250 known species! One of the biggest bumblebees in the world is Bombus dahlbomii, which lives in South America, can reach a massive 4 cm long, prompting some of the locals to call it the 'flying mouse!'. Likewise, Honey bees belong to the genus Apis, of which there are at least 44 described subspecies.
Woah... So that'sa lot of bees right?
Actually, that's nothing. Part of the wider order of the Hymenoptera, which also includes wasps and ants, bees are part of the 'clade' Anthophila, and there's 20,000 known species of them! So, what's all the buzz about?
We Need Bees More than They Need Us
Currently, our whole civilisation relies on bees. Think that sounds extreme?
A massive portion of the food we eat, especially fruits and legumes, require insect pollination before they give us their tasty fruit. One of the most efficient little creatures at pollinating all these flowers is, you guessed it, the humble bee. In their epic search for nectar, bees get dusted with the pollen from flowers, which they then buzz off and transfer to other flowers, which get fertilised and produce fruits and seeds. Sure, other insects such as hoverflies are important pollinators too, but the bee is a supercharged and specialist pollinator, the elite troops of the pollination brigade.
Lurking on those leaves though can be some other pretty greedy insects... unwanted pests can nibble away precious crops and destroy entire fields of vegetables. Some farmers turn to pesticides to combat these pests, which can lead to huge problems for our friendly bees. Pesticides accumulate in the crops pollen and nectar, and also get blown many miles away in the wind.
Because a large amount of bees are social creatures, they take trace amounts of these pesticides back to their hives, where they build up over time and cause some nasty side effects for the poor bees. Pesticides, especiallyneonicotinoids, can effect bees ability to find their way back to their hives, fly, and regulate their body temperature - something which is essential for making the honey they use as food, and incubating newly hatching bees.
Eventually, enough pesticides can drive bee hives to colony collapse. This is when a hive of bees all die, or are forced to leave for new pastures. This is why we don't accurately know the number of bees currently happy and healthy, because colony collapse is sudden and unpredictable. This means bees are in dire need, with many species of bee becoming endangered.
So, we need to act now, it's about time we all gave something back to the bees right?
How Can You Help Local Bees?
Bees may fly up to 5 kilometres from their hive to collect pollen and nectar! If you imagine the size of a bee, that is likely the equivalent of us walking across the Atlantic ocean just to do our weekly food shop!
Scientists have shown that with adequate nutrition, bees can more easily resist the negative effect of pesticide damage. This means a diverse range of flowers, offering high quantities of easily accessible, quality and rich pollen and nectar; full of amino acids, proteins, and energy.
This is where we can give back to bees this summer. Even if you only have a postage stamp back garden, you can fill it full of bee friendly plants, which a visiting bee will love to eat.
The first step, we've got to say, is if you use pesticides in your garden, even if they claim to be 'bee-friendly', please leave them on the shelf! There are loads of ways to discourage pests, such as netting, raised beds, frequent thinning and regular maintenance.
That said, here's a list of plants your visiting bees are going to simply love, and the best part, all these plants are beautiful, fragrant, and satisfying too:
- Lavender - This common and fragrant plant is beautiful and comes in many forms, but almost all forms of lavender with produce gorgeous flowers that bees will love. Hardy and easy to maintain, you can buy a ready-to-go lavender plant from most garden centres for less than £5.
- White Clover - Got a lawn? Chances are, you'll have some clover growing in it. Clovers are a member of the legume family, and produce beautiful white flowers which bees adore. If you've got clover in your lawn, don't mow it too often! Long grass can offer shelter for bees, and feels great on your bare toes!
- Mint - Another fragrant plant with plenty of varieties. Mint gives off a beautiful scent when crushed, can be made into tasty mojito's in the summer, and blooms in beautiful deep-purple & blue flowers which attract pollinators.
- Sunflower - This one's an obvious win-win, a big beautiful flower that is the perfect growing project for kids, it's huge flower will attract a range of pollinators, and give you a beautiful focal point in your garden or patio. Perfect for growing in pots on a sunny porch! You can eat the seeds, too.
- Raspberry & Blackberry - Noticing a theme here? Most of the plants listed here have uses beyond just looking pretty & feeding bees. They can feed you too. Raspberry & Blackberry plants are simple to grow, either from seed if you've got the time or ready-grown from your local garden centre, and they will feed you too!
- Sage, Rosemary & Thyme - This trio of well loved culinary herbs are simply perfect for bees. Aside from producing an abundance of flowers, they can provide you some fresh flavours in the kitchen too. You can buy potted versions of these common herbs in most major supermarkets.
- Heather - Heather comes in many varieties and is a beautiful plant to feature in shrubberies and rockeries. A hardy plant, it's purple - pinkish flowers will attract plenty of pollinators.
The Royal Horticultural Society have a little logo on many plants featured in garden centres - the "Plants for Polinators" symbol. Look out for plants with this logo on when you're next out shopping!
The best part is, most of the plants bees love are inexpensive and won't hurt your pocket - but they will improve your garden, your health, and help bees!
Thanks for reading and we hope you enjoy your summer in your gardens in peace and pleasure!
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All the best!
Elliot - Founder at Cortiça Boutique