Sunday, August 9, 2015

Come On - Bee Friendly!

Watercolour by Helen A. Howell

Bees play a very important role in the pollination of flowers and vegetables, and without them our survival would be questionable. The poor bee is suffering somewhat these days from the use of insecticides both by agricultural chemicals  and those that the home gardener reaches for. This coupled with the loss of wild flower meadows and their natural habitats is seriously impacting on the bee population.

Photographed by Helen A. Howell

What can we as gardeners do to help? The first step is to take on organic practices and cease using insecticides. Simple and safe solutions can be found to the common problems we all experience. 

First and foremost plant your garden with insect friendly plants, this will not only encourage the bees but also those good insects like lady bugs who will soon devour those pesky aphids that lurk on your plants.

Speaking of aphids/greenfly all I do to get rid of these little blighters is one of two things. I either put on a pair of disposable gloves and just run my fingers up and down the parts of the plant that they are infesting, they really don't like this. You may have to do this for a couple of days but they will go away. Or if you don't like the idea of doing that, just get your hose, or a spray bottle and give them a blast of water, this will knock them off. Again it may take a few repeats over a couple of days but it does work. No harm to the environment and no harm to the bees.
Photograph by Helen A. Howell

Powdery mildew – we all groan when we see this appearing on the leaves of our plants or veggies. A quick solution is to use one part full cream milk to two parts water and spray on the affected leaves. It won't cure it but it will go someway to controlling it.  Another thing you can do is cut off the offending leaves. If the plant is, say an annual and has really bad mildew, just throw it away and start again. I have heard Chamomile tea works a treat, and one should just spray it on, but having never tried this I can't say whether it does or doesn't work. 

Those pesky slugs and snails do like to come out and feast when the soil is nice and damp. You can go on a night patrol and collect them, then maybe the next morning put them somewhere the birds can see them. I like to put them out in the middle of my lawn. The birds will do a perfectly good job of getting rid of them for you, just as nature intended. If you must use a slug and snail bait then use the animal friendly one, it doesn't harm the birds etc and I believe, neither the soil. Don't salt slugs or snails this is very cruel and salting them causes them not to function on a cellular level and so they die of dehydration.

So there you have a couple of easy organic solutions to the pests/problems that commonly arise in one's garden.

Photograph by Helen A. Howell
Now to encourage the bees into your garden you need some bee friendly plants, and what plants do they like best? 

Bees don't see colour the same way as we do, they can see in the UV spectrum. Bees seem to be really attracted to blue plants. Of course bees love native and wild flowers but they also seem to love herbs when flowering. I noticed my marjoram was alive with bees when it went into flower. So why not plant yourself a herb patch with bee friendly herbs, like marjoram, thyme, rosemary etc. Good for the bees and good for your cooking!

Photograph by Richard Howell
Now, I did mention that bees love blue flowers and there are loads of blue flowers you can plant like bluebells, cornflowers, salvias, both blue and white, borage, bees love borage and of course lavender - what would a garden be without some lavender.

Photo by Helen A. Howell
I noticed that the bees also loved my Eryngium Blue Sea Holly. As it matures it seems to get a deeper blue. 

They do say that bees don't like red so much, but I have to tell you that my salvia 'Hot Lips'  whose flowers are red and white was alive with bees last summer.

The thing to remember when planting flowers for the bees is that the single headed variety is the best. They have nice open flowers and easy accessible pollen. Of course those hard working bees also like the flowers of your vegetable crops and I notice that they really did love my blackberry flowers too.

Photograph © Helen A. Howell

It's easy to create this environment within you garden, so come on - Bee Friendly! ^_^

Photograph © Helen A. Howell


  1. Yes, bee friendly! I am always astonished no-one checked how these insecticides affect bees (you'd think the category name would be a big hint!). No point in spraying for aphids and whatnot if you kill off your pollinators at the same time.

    What do you think of using dishes of beer to kill off slugs? I like your "feed 'em to the birds" method.

  2. Yes beer traps are good, I know they drown but at least it's a bit kinder than salting them.

  3. What a beautiful watercolor! Is there any artistic endeavor you don't excel at? :-)

    I also appreciate the info. This was a bad year for gardening, but might try again come spring. I'll have to come back and read through this again :-)

  4. Yes d paul, I can't sing for toffees or play an instrument ^_^ I'm so pleased that you are enjoying this blog of mine and I hope the sharing of my experiences in gardening will be useful to you.


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