By: Emma Taylor
3 Sep 19
Oh, HONEY! Let’s talk about the Birds and the Bees!
Hey there, sweet thang! We’re super exited to have a chat about one of our biggest passions… our local bird and insect life! (Cue wild cheering)
The healthiest gardens are the ones that are filled with LIFE. Not just plant life, but all the other things that support it… birds, butterflies, insects and yes, the essential and beloved bee.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to have a talk about the birds and the bees!
Why are bees important? If you’ve been on the internet or read any article (like, you know, EVER) you would have heard of the dangerously low bee population rates that we are now seeing as a direct result of limited ecosystems, increased use of pesticides and urban expansion. Why is that a big deal? Well bees give us A LOT more than just honey… they play an endlessly important role in our planet!
Did you know that Australia is home to 1,600 native bee species? (Go you good thing!)
These little champions are the world’s most important pollinator of food crops: in fact it’s a conservative estimate that a third of the food consumed daily is directly reliant on pollination by bees (Y’all. AVOCADOS don’t happen without Bees. That’s a big deal). They also play an important role in the pollination of other vital crops, like cotton or flax; in fact, 39 commercial crops are completely dependent on bees to be produced.
In some areas of China they are having to resort to HAND pollinating due to the severe damage done to their local bee population by the overuse of pesticides #aintnobodygottimeforthat.
Your local bee friends are also responsible for many of the foods eaten by livestock and native wildlife, which all play their own important role in our environment, ecosystem and diets (You know… STEAK).
Of course, we can’t forget that endless gorgeous varieties in our gardens wouldn’t be available without the essential aid of bees, 75% of the world’s flowers depend on bees! Even some trees rely on pollination to grow. (Gardens and plants are more important than food, right? Unless we’re the only ones who spend more on our gardens than rent?)
Whilst estimating an exact value for the contribution that bees make to our economy is difficult, the American Beekeeping Federation estimates that bees contribute $15 BILLION annually to the US economy alone, let alone globally.
Some have compared bees to the ‘canary in the coal mine’, they offer a great indication as to the health to the rest of the environment, if the bees go, a lot of our food sources and environment do as well. If we’re paying attention, that’s a cause for concern!
BUT, there are many ways you can make your garden a bee haven! (Come on, do it for the avocados.) Not only will this improve the health of your plant-babies and outdoor environment, but you will be contributing to helping the planet in a real and tangible way (Aw shucks! You little hero!).
Let’s get buzzing through some easy and simple options to make your garden bee-autiful!
We will run through the best bee-attracting plants and flower varieties below, but let’s start with some environmental attractions first, you handsome dog, you *wink*.
It’s not common knowledge that bees (as well as other insects) require a source of water. Attract bees to your garden by providing a constant source of water for them. For the best results, keep it shallow, like your ex.
Some plates that you top with water periodically are ideal, and attractive to more helpful insect friends then just bees #winning. Take measures to help stop the bees from drowning by adding some pebbles or rocks to the shallow water, or even some floating material like a small piece of floating plastic.
You don’t even have to provide particularly clean water, they actually have been proven to sometimes prefer it a little dirty, once again, like your ex.
Sing through the seasons
Ensure that when choosing plant varieties for your garden, that you choose a wide ranging selection that bloom year round. Have different plants that flower through summer, autumn, winter and spring. This provides the bees a place to forage year round, which means that they will know that your happy homestead is always a place of availability. In fact, bees are known to forage for miles away from their hive, #willworkforfood.
If at all possible, protecting your garden with windbreaks, while not a necessity, is a helpful addition for many native species, not just bees (particularly if you are on a hill, beachside or particularly windy location). Bees are incredibly light! Weighing only around 0.1 grams, which means that the wind can affect them dramatically. Providing a little safe haven that is protected from strong winds will just be that extra little neon ‘welcome sign’ for your garden to local bird and insect-life.
Planting up your borders with tall hedges or trees not only provides you with security and privacy, but can do the same for our littlest of friends too (check out part two for even more compelling reasons to do this).
Avoid the use of pesticides and insecticides
This may seem like a no-brainer to some, but sometimes in the effort of creating our perfect wonderland, we forget that all of our decisions have a run on effect. Maybe you’ve heard of the butterfly effect? One small decision will have a million effects on the world around you.
To use toxic chemicals to eliminate your garden pests, will likely also harm your garden friends. Imagine it’s a little like an anti-biotic, it won’t just kill the bad bacteria, but it will kill the good too. Yes, it serves a purpose, but it’s important to consider what the price is of using it, so one may make a wise choice.
I’ve heard people say ‘A good leaf is a chewed leaf’. Meaning that chewed leaves are often signs of healthy and thriving garden ecosystem. Before making choices to eliminate pests, carefully consider if they may affect our garden-friends and visitors too, let alone your own health.
Colour and clump it, people!
Did you know bees love colour? In particular they love blues, yellows, purples and whites! Who knew? (Read part two to find out what some of our other garden visitors love)
But don’t stress it too much, bees are simply after flowers. While other plants still play an important role in their needs (like building hives for honeybees, or nests for native bees), flowers provide nectar and pollen and are the lifeblood of our little buzz-tacular buddies.
Urbanisation, the increase of rental properties and current garden trends mean that sometimes we plant up our gardens without as many flowers, but flower it up, my friend! (Please. Do it for the bees, the bros and the avocados).
When planting out, don’t forget that bees also love clumped arrangements of flowers. Instead of speckling flowers through your landscape, mass plantings are a bees like bumble-land (like a ‘wonderland’ but more bumbly). It also does wonders for the pollination and healthy of your own garden, so clump it up!
Give us some space!
We understand that planting up every square inch of space can make a statement (we see you, all you overachievers out there), many of our native bees don’t actually build hives, but nest in trees, nest on the ground and some even burrow!
Whilst the hot Australian climate often means mulch is our very best friend, it can be a lot for our little buzzers to dig through. Try to provide a few spaces of bare ground in some of the corners of your little paradise to create space for our friends to nest and make themselves at home.
It’s the greatest compliment they can give you, to want to stay! Awwww, I’ve got allll the fuzzy feels.
Now, the most important part (and thankfully the part we can help you with!), what should we be planting for our bee-autiful buzzy bros? We’ve listed out some of their favourites below for you.
[Trigger warning]: The old wives tale that you can only plant natives is poppycock (pardon my French), bees actually love introduced species as much as they love natives, so fly free and fly far, furry friends! Plant what you like!
Alllll the grevilleas… gosh, is there anything grevilleas CAN’T do? They are hardy, drought resistant, gorgeous, flower almost year round and play endless roles in your gardens ecosystems! Attractive to birds, insects, bees and butterflies, this shining star ticks just about every box you could think of.
Callistemons… once again, check out this star performer! (Consider the Wilderness White)
Some other suggestions:
Buddleja (Butterfly Bush)
Herbs when in flower:
Vegetables when in flower:
Fruit and Nuts bees love:
You can also consider sacrificing a few vegetables and letting them go into flower… bees have been proven to go bee-nanas over:
Hopefully this helps you create a bee-autiful bumbleland for our very best little buzzy friends. Please. Do it for the bees, the bros and the avocados.