How To Attract Bees and Pollinators

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Attracting bees and other pollinators into your garden is very important as these valuable insects pollinate so many of the fruits and veggies we grow. Without them the veggie patch and orchard would look pretty bare.

Even though honey bees are the best known pollinators there are many other insect pollinators that we can attract including native bees, pollen beetles, adult hoverflies, some moths and more.  Despite their diversity they’re all after one thing and that’s the food found in flowers – pollen and nectar.  So having more flowers in your garden will attract more pollinators 🙂

In the world of flowers though some are more attractive to pollinators than others. This is because they may have more pollen and nectar than other flowers, they may flower at a time when there aren’t many other plants in flower or the flower structure may just be more conducive to landing and feasting.

Pollinator Attracting Plants
There are plenty of plants which will attract bees and other pollinators but here are some of the very best:

  • Annuals – alyssum, cosmos, Queen Anne’s Lace, calendula, phacelia
  • Perennials – daisies, salvias, penstemons
  • Herbs (when in flower) – lavender, rosemary, oregano, borage, basil, yarrow, dill, parsley
  • Trees & Shrubs – eucalypts, grevilleas, bottlebrushes, buddleia, abelia, tea trees

Insect Hotels
Recently there’s been a surge of “Insect Hotels” for sale in stores and DIY instructions available online. However pollinators will naturally find existing nooks and crannies for nesting and sheltering in without the need for an official “hotel”.  But hey they do look cute and if they attract some native solitary bees and other guests that’s just a bonus.

Native Beehives
Increasingly gardeners are installing small hives of native stingless bees to boost pollination. These native bees only produce small quantities of honey and don’t need to be intensively managed like honey bees.  They are best for areas with mild winters and can be left undisturbed whilst they go about their pollinating business.  Visit www.aussiebee.com.au to learn more.

If you live in an area which is too cold to keep a stingless hive there are still many other native bees that can help with pollination. Often they are solitary species which don’t congregate in a hive but nonetheless they will still be attracted to your garden if it is full of flowers ladened with pollen and nectar.

Toxic Chemicals
Unfortunately many of the garden chemicals sold in Australia are harmful to bees and other pollinators.  Some will kill these insects on direct contact with the spray while others are having longer lasting negative impacts on them.  Research is showing that a group of insecticides called neonicotinoids is particularly damaging.  This group includes the very popular insecticide called imidacloprid (sold under many brand names including Confidor).

In other countries bans on many of these neonicotinoids are starting to happen as the world begins to realise the severity of the damage they cause.  In Australia though these chemicals are still allowed to be used despite the growing concern worldwide.

To help protect our pollinators, and the environment in general, there are several things you can do:

  • Do not use any products which list imidacloprid as the active ingredient on the label.
  • If you need an insecticide then stick to eco-oil or eco-neem which are known to be safe for beneficial insects.
  • Choose to eat organic food as often as you can.  This supports organic growers that don’t use nasty chemicals and are working hard to look after our environment.
  • Plant more flowering plants in your garden!

 

Honey bee digging deep for some food in this grevillea flower

The striking blue banded bee is a solitary bee

Hoverfly feasting on pollen

Gum tree flowers are irresistable to bees