Having flowers in our gardens is great. They bring colour, excitement, the passing of seasons. However, it is a common misconception that by having “flowers” one will automatically attract the right kind of insects to one’s garden. Different insects require different types of flower to survive. For example, while butterflies may like flowers like verbena because they have many flowers clustered together, the nectar of this type of flower is tricky to access for bees. Similarly, some flowers with tunnels which are ideal for bees to land on are too narrow for bumblebees. Additionally, there are long-tongued bumblebees that favour deep flowers and short-tonged that, unsurprisingly, prefer shallow flowers.
If we want to make our gardens more wildlife-friendly, we need to consider having different types of flowers: flowers that we like and flowers for insects. Bees start to be actively spotted early spring; bumblebees, for example, will be feeding off bluebells and lungwort as early as February. Bees will be active until late summer, and therefore we should aim for at least 2 kinds of bee-friendly plant for each flowering period.
We also need to bear in mind that some flowers may not be suitable simply because they produce little or no pollen or nectar. These tend to be annuals, such as pansies, or double or multiple-petalled flowers.
We have put together some favourites that get the bees buzzing.
- Honeysuckle (shrub)
- Honeysuckle (climber)
- Sweet William
- English Lavender
- Sunflower – Bonus: The dead flower heads with seeds can be left in winter as a bird feeder.
What other plants do you have in your garden to attract bees? Leave a comment or tweet us @Preloved.