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Be a Friend to all Bees and Pollinators on International Bee Day (20th May)… and all year round!

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“To survive and thrive, bees need us to be the generation that saves our British bees. Letting bees be your guide and ally will help transform your patch, control real pests naturally and get your plants and crops pollinated for free. That’s more than a fair trade.”

Paul de Zylva, Bee Cause Campaign 2015, Friends of the Earth

1. Go for it. Don’t wait for the perfect time or place. Your small space or shared grounds can become a bee-friendly haven.

2. Observe. Look around in your local area or a garden centre and note which plants thrive and attract bees. Look for gaps in your garden which could be filled with flowering plants.

3. Choose plants to suit your space. Strawberries, beans and other veg can flower in pots on a patio. Herbs such as Lavender, Rosemary and Thyme love a sunny window box or hanging basket. Balms  or Mints will flower in shade.

4. Keep Local. Choose plant species native to your region.

5. Grow it up! If you have the space, include some larger plants for height alongside low growing species. Layers of plants help provide optimum habitat for pollinators. Think about including trees, climbers, shrubs with snowdrops, heathers and crocus.

6. Plant for all seasons. To provide a year-round food source; you can try regularly sowing Geranium, Borage, Green Alkanet, Nasturtiums Marigolds, Phacelia & Viper’s Bugloss. In spring, try growing sunflowers. They will rise through the year and feed bees and birds alike.

7. Mix it up! Bees need different plants like trees, hedges and shrubs; bulbs, herbs and grasses, flowers, fruit and vegetables. Choose flowers with different shapes, colours and scents. If you fancy growing your own food, bees will pollinate fruits such as Apples, Plums, Raspberries and many more. Amongst vegetables, broad-beans, garden peas and leeks are all good choices.

8. Leave your lawn. Let all or some of your lawn grow longer (or ask your housing provider to take this approach to communal lawns). Long grass and wild flowers give pollinators places to feed and shelter – ideally remove cuttings to allow plants to flower. You could also sow wild-flowers Tips: raise notches on the mower to lift the cutting blade a few centimetres.

9. Leave wild patches. ‘Weeds’ like Nettles, Ragwort and Brambles provide food sources breeding places for butterflies and moths. Simply let these grow to avoid disturbing nests and hibernating insects. Ivy is another plant which you could simply let grow. Bees will search out flowering ivy in autumn – so try not to cut it cut it back until after flowering.

10. Avoid pesticides. Pesticides, herbicides and weed-killers are causing insect populations to decline. Hoverflies, beetles and ladybirds are natures pesticide, as they hunt aphids and other species which damage plants. See them as allies, not enemies. Like bees, we too can enjoy many ‘weeds’ such as daisies, dandelions and dock leaves.

11. For peat’s sake. Use peat-free compost, or make your own. Public concern about loss of peatlands means sale of peat in garden centres is being phased out, but it’s still available. It’s up to us to avoid peat compost and help save our peatlands: a vital habitat and carbon sink. Read more about peatlands in Greater Manchester here.

More ways to help

For more easy ways to help bees see:

Friends of the Earth 10 easy ways to help bees and Bee-Friendly Plants: When and Where they’ll provide Early Pollen and Nectar all year round’.

Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ lists of garden plants and wildflowers.

National Forest Gardening and AgroForestry Research Trust.

Jane L Morris, 17.05.2021 for Manchester Friends of the Earth Nature subgroup.

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