Alice, Animals, Conservation, Gardening, Organic, Wildlife

Bees are highly beneficial creatures, responsible for pollination an estimated 80% of the western diet. However, due to attack from the varroa mite and agricultural pesticides, their numbers have been in steady decline. British gardens cover a combined area estimated at over 10 million acres, and as agricultural land becomes less bountiful for pollinators, they are becoming increasingly important in conserving bees and the environment as a whole. So here are some eco-friendly gardening techniques for bees you can use to help preserve pollinators and the planet.

eco-friendly gardening techniques for bees

Go wild

An immaculate garden is great for impressing the neighbours, but not so great for wildlife. To encourage bees and other wildlife, allow your garden to grow a little wild, with overgrown shrubs and climbers, leaves, and dead stems. It is a good idea to allow an area of your grass to grow long, which will allow wildflowers to grow and increase insect diversity. Allowing a few weeds to flourish also provides food for insects.

Choose open flowers

Bees need flowers to feed on the nectar, and how accessible the nectar makes a big difference. Open flowers such as daisies, or any set on a “bobble” such as thistles are perfect. Unhybridized species tend to be a richer source of pollen than elaborately-bred show blooms. Bees also love fruit trees, flowering trees, legumes, blackberries, and ivy. Growing a variety of species is also important for attracting a diverse range of wildlife.

Avoid chemical pesticides

Pesticides and insecticides can be highly efficient in disposing of unwanted pests, however, these chemicals do not discriminate, and will also destroy many beneficial organisms. Alternative methods to protect your plants include using copper rings or beer traps to deter slugs; covering plants with fleece or netting; and encouraging pest-eating animals such as birds and hedgehogs into your garden. Companion planting can also be highly effective. Garlic, dill, chives, borage, basil, and nasturtium are good pest deterrents, and planting spring onions near carrot plants can deter carrot fly.

Composting

Peat-based compost and synthetic fertilisers are damaging to the environment, as naturally-occurring peat bogs absorb a great amount of carbon dioxide, and the process of making synthetic fertilizers can emit CO2. Making your own compost is an eco-friendly alternative that has the added advantage of recycling your household waste. You can compost leaves and other foliage; grass and wood cuttings; dead plants and shrubs; leftover food such as vegetable peelings; and old newspaper, cardboard, and paper. Avoid any diseased plant parts, anything sprayed with pesticides, or pet waste. You can use a ready-made compost bin, create your own using a metal bin or plastic bag, or simply pile up the compost material. Composting is also great for wildlife as it enhances the bacterial and fungal life in your garden.

Eco-friendly water

Not only can a garden water supply be great for wild birds, but it is also important for bees. A garden pond is ideal, but otherwise, you could put out a bucket or tray filled with water. There are some great eco-friendly alternatives to lessen the demand on mains water. A water butt can store rainwater, which is great for watering plants as it is chemical-free, and it can also be used for filling your wildlife drinking area. Add rocks, or floating plants or wine corks to give bees a safe place to land. For watering plants, you can also purchase a greywater diverter to reuse water from your kitchen sink, showers, and baths.

Bee Hotels

Many species of bee are on the decline due to lack of suitable nesting areas, so a bee hotel is a great way to help bees in your garden. These handy homes provide a sheltered area for rainy days, along with purpose-built tubes for female bees to lay their eggs. You could even build your own bee hotel with bamboo canes. Place in a sunny area facing south to the south-east at least a metre off the ground, and watch as bees come to stay.

20th May is World Bee Day, so make sure to get involved and spread the word about the plight of garden bees. You can read more about bee conservation here. You can also let us know what eco-friendly gardening techniques for bees you have been using on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram

 

 

Alice, Animals, Birds, Conservation, Wildlife

Many species of wild animals are on the decline, including hedgehogs, sparrows, and song thrushes. With an estimated 24 million gardens in the UK, these outdoor spaces have huge potential to nurture an array of creatures. Here are some simple solutions for how to help wildlife in your garden.

how to help wildlife in your garden

Go natural

An immaculate garden with with a tidy lawn, perfectly pruned hedges and every fallen leaf disposed of will impress your neighbours, but isn’t the best way to welcome wildlife. Leaves, weeds, and overgrown shrubs provide shelter for insects, birds, and small mammals. Long grass in particular is a great habitat, so make sure to leave at least a patch of your lawn unmown. Weeds are also a food source for many insects, including butterflies and moths.

Avoid pesticides

Pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides will destroy unwanted pests, however chemicals are not selective: they will also destroy other insects including beneficial pollinators. Even insects such as aphids and slugs can be beneficial in maintaining the food chain. Alternative methods to protect your plants include using a cloche or fleece, companion planting, and using grease bands for trees.

Just add water

A pond is a great way of attracting an array of wildlife into your garden, including frogs, newts, birds, and insects. Make sure to incorporate a sloping bank area so animals can easily step in and out, and avoid adding fish as they eat tadpoles. If you don’t have space for a full-blown pond, a birdbath is a great way of providing drinking and bathing water to wild birds, and make sure to leave a bowl of water for thirsty wildlife on hot days.

Feed the birds

Food supplies for wild birds can run short, particularly in the winter, so it’s a great idea to offer nutrition for our feathered friends. It’s important to stick to a regular feeding schedule as irregular feeding could cause birds to expend energy flying to your garden then find there is no food. Make sure food is kept out of the reach of cats, and some of it is protected to allow small birds to feed in safety. Our range of bird feeders has a range of styles to suit various species and garden styles.

how to help wildlife in your garden

Bee-friendly flowers

Bees are highly beneficial pollinators, however due to the varroa mite and agricultural pesticides, their population is declining. Make your garden a rich food source for these creatures by planting open flowers such as daisies; flowering trees (including fruit trees); and legumes such as beans, peas, sweet peas. Sowing multiple plants in succession rather than occasional plants dotted around your garden works best. You can find out more about bee conservation in this article.

Diversity

A garden full of the same flower species creates a bold display, but isn’t great for wildlife. Growing a range of flowers provides a strong supply of nectar and helps create a healthy ecosystem with a wide range of insects, birds, and mammals.

Animal habitats

Bird nest boxes are a great way of providing shelter for wild birds and protecting them from predators. Our collection includes a variety of models to accommodate various species of bird; from small round-holed boxes for tits to more open styles for robins. There are now more habitat options available for other creatures. Our Hedgehog House Care Pack provides a great hibernation haven, and our Ladybird Tower is perfect for housing beneficial insects. Piles of logs and sticks can also provide shelter for various critters.

Compost

In addition to recycling kitchen waste and enriching the soil, compost can also enhance the bacterial and fungal life in your garden, which provides a base for other wildlife. A compost heap can also provide a home for creatures such as woodlice, worms, and frogs. Check out our guide on how to compost here!

A gap in the fence

Make sure animals such as hedgehogs and frogs can benefit the new wildlife-friendly additions to your garden by making sure your fences have some gaps at the bottom to allow wildlife to move through. This will also help link habitats together. However, if you or one of your neighbours have a dog, ensure that the gap is small enough that the dog cannot escape!

Let us know which adorable creatures have been visiting your garden on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!

 

Animals, Conservation, Megan, Wildlife

Bee conservation is all the buzz at the moment, pardon the pun. With the Great British Bee Count recently coming to a close, and us being in the midst of Bees’ Needs Week 2018, we thought there would be no better time than now to do a blog post on all you need to know about bee conservation. So here it is!

bee conservation tips

Importance of Bee Conservation

Bees are kind of important. ‘Kind of’ being a massive understatement. Bees are critical pollinators. They pollinate around 70 out of 100 crop species that essentially feed 90% of the world’s population. If that’s got you confused, to put it simply, if bees die out, so do we.

There has been an overall decline in wild and honey bees over the past 50 years, the main causes being industrial agriculture, parasites and climate change. One of the main culprits is the use of insecticides containing neonicotinoids which are toxic to many other species of insects in addition to bees. Luckily, this year, use has now been banned across Europe.  However it is not known the detrimental effect the use of the insecticides has truly had on the bee population in recent years and whether it will continue.

bee pollen

Types of Bees

Bumblebees

There are 24 species of bumblebee found in the UK, 6 of which you will find buzzing around your garden. Only the queen of bumblebee colonies survive the winter, so they have no need to store large amounts of honey. They nest in old burrows and cavities.

Honey Bees

Honey bees live in hives. Colonies are divided up into the queen who runs the hive, workers (female bees) and drones (male bees). Honey bees have been domesticated by beekeepers to produce the honey we all know and love.

honey bees

Mason Bees

Mason bees are solitary bees. They tend to nest in hollow wood, and British species in particular may even nest in empty snail shells. They use mud to to build their nest compartments. Mason bees are one of the most fascinating to observe.

Mining Bees

Mining bees are another species that live solitarily. They like to build nests in sandy soil, so if you come across any small mounds of earth on your lawn, this may be a mining bee nest. The nests cause no damage to the soil so there is no need to disturb them.

Bee Conservation: How You Can Help

Plant Bee-Friendly Plants

There are a number of species of plants that will specifically attract bees to your garden. Bees prefer flowers rich in nectar and pollen. Plant a variety of shrubs, flowers, herbs, fruit & vegetables:

  • Lavender – bees are attracted to its purple flowers and perfumed scent.
  • Abelia – nicknamed the ‘bee bush’, bees are attracted to its scented delicate white flowers.
  • Crocus – bees often use the large flowers of the crocus to shelter themselves overnight to protect themselves and the pollen they have collected.
  • Chives – easy to grow, many species of bees seek the nectar from punchyed purple florets of chives.
  • Kale – this fashionable cabbage is popular amongst bees as well. Leaving some plants to put out yellow flowers will attract a variety of bees to your veg patch.
  • Wildflowers – wildflowers provide accessible nectar and pollen for bees throughout the spring and summer months. Check out our post on rewilding your garden to learn some tips on encouraging native wildflowers to bloom in your garden.

Buy Local Organic Honey

Opt for honey from local beekeepers that do not use honey from hives treated by chemicals. Pop down to your local farmers market and you are sure to meet some local beekeepers – shake their hand and find out how they keep their bees. This is the best way to ensure you are consuming honey from a sustainable, natural source.

organic honey

Go Organic in Your Garden

Rid yourself of insecticides and pesticides. They may help you lawn look neat and tidy, but they are doing quite the opposite for the biodiversity and insect population in your garden. Chemicals can wreak havoc on bee systems, so opt for natural pesticides that won’t harm the wildlife in your garden. You can find out more about organic gardening in this blog post.

Provide Water

Bees need water too! Investing in a bird bath will not only help the feathered friends that visit your garden, but bees too.

water for bees

Conclusion

Bees are vital for human life so their survival and protection through bee conservation should be of utmost importance to us. Taking simple steps to ensure your garden is bee-friendly can make the world of difference.

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.

Animals, Cat, Current Issues

More Than Honey film poster

If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.

Albert Einstein

We have spoken about our love for bees before – Claire has done two excellent posts on saving the bees and farming alternatives that don’t involve the use of neonicotinoid pesticide.

In addition to producing honey, bees are responsible for pollinating flowers. As it is described early on in the film, bees are helping flowers have procreate as, after all, flowers cannot just get up and mingle amongst each other themselves.

More Than Honey is a film created by Markus Imhoof and chronicles honeybee colonies in California, Switzerland, China and Australia. It talks about the problems facing modern bee-keeping and the loss of sometimes up to 90% of the bees in colonies – particularly disturbing as 80% of plant species require pollination.

The film opens in the UK later this year.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylK9cDjhNQY]

wedding-meCat works in the marketing team and is responsible for online marketing, social media and the newsletter.

She spends most of her time reading about a variety of interesting facts, such as oddly named Canadian towns, obscure holidays and unusual gardening.

She mostly writes about Primrose news and current events.

See all of Cat’s posts.