What planting mixes can I use for bees ?

Buff-tailed bumblebee on Hebe flower

Buff-tailed bumblebee on Hebe flower

Norfolk Wildlife Services have been asked by a number of clients how they can do more for bees on their sites, including several large solar farms.

There are over 250 species of bees living in the UK, including solitary bees, honey bees and bumble bees, all of which are an important component of Britain’s pollinating insects.

Recent research has shown a worrying decline in bee populations across the UK, thought to be linked to changes in farming practices in England over the past 50 years, which have resulted in much larger, intensively-farmed fields of monocultures.  Habitats once used by foraging bees have been reduced in this new landscape, with, for example, species-rich hay meadows declining by 97% since 1930.  Similarly, hedgerow networks have often become fragmented, removing links between bee feeding and nesting sites.

Providing good habitat for bees is easy if you pick the right species and doesn’t have to be specialist to look after or expensive to plant. The main thing to consider is having a range of plants that flower throughout the spring and summer to provide nectar and pollen for as long as possible throughout the bee’s lifecycle [ and grow well in East Anglia !], such as the following:

  • Spring flowers : bluebell, bugle, crocus and daffodil;
  • Early summer flowers : thymes, hardy geraniums, catmint and snapdragons;
  • Late summer flowers : sedums, heathers, lavender

You can also buy nectar-rich wildflower packet mixes, some of which suit bees very well  – look for mixes with species such as borages, red clover, and cornflower to create a bee-friendly mini-meadow.

To find out more information about the causes of the long term decline in bees, check out the Living With Environmental Change Policy and Practice Notes Note No. 09 April 2014. Norfolk Wildife Services can also advise you about landscaping plans and land management for bees and how to plant and cultivate suitable flower mixes.

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