What are the best plants for honey bees? What are the plants that bees love? And why should we care? Why should we make sure we plant bee friendly gardens?

Because thanks to a mystery illness called Colony Collapse Disorder, Bees need all the help they can get.

Worldwide honeybee stocks have been waning since 2004 because of a puzzling illness scientists called Colony Collapse Disorder, which causes adult bees to inexplicably abandon their hives and their broods. However, bees also appear to be suffering from other ailments.

Colony Collapse Disorder has killed off the weakest colonies in recent years and parasites such as the varroa mite are threatening those that survived. Intensive farming techniques, pesticide drift and climate change are also being blamed for the sudden decline in the bee population. It could cause serious problems for agriculture and food production since bees are essential to pollinate many plants, including fruits and vegetables.

The number of bumblebees in the UK has declined by around 70% since the 1970s and honey bees by up to 15% in the last two years, according to official UK Government figures. It’s generally accepted that a reduction of wildflowers is a main contribution to the decline of bumblebees. U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers found that honeybee colonies declined in the USA by 29% between September 2008 and early April 2009. That’s an improvement over the previous two years, when researchers found that 32% and 36% of all beekeepers surveyed lost hives.But the loss of so many bees is still cause for concern.

Planting a bee friendly garden

What are the best Bee Plants? Bees are looking for two things when they visit your garden:

  1. Nectar – nectar is loaded with sugars and is a bee’s main source of energy
  2. Pollen – pollen provides a balanced diet of proteins and fats

So here’s how to plan your Bee-friendly Garden

Choose your area
The bee friendly border needs to be in full sun but also sheltered from the wind. Bees hate being blown around when trying to land on flowers and prefer to stay in the sun rather than the shade.

Make a list
List the calendar months down on a piece of paper and start choosing bee friendly plants to ensure something is in flower every month. (This is where a good monthly gardening book comes in handy.) Choose several different plants for each month. This will support a range of bee species that fly at different times of the season.

As with any border choose smaller plants for the front and graduate the size to the back of the border, which should have taller shrubs.

Use local native plants
Research suggests native plants are four times more attractive to native bees than exotic flowers. They are also usually well adapted to your growing conditions and can thrive with minimum attention.

Choose a variety of colours
Bees have good colour vision to help them find flowers and the nectar and pollen they offer. Colours that attract bees are blue, purple, violet, white, and yellow.

Plant flowers in clumps
Flowers clustered into clumps of the same species will attract more bees than individual plants scattered through the border. Where space allows, make the clumps four feet or more in diameter.

Include flowers of different shapes
There are thousands of different species of bees around the world. They are all different sizes and have different tongue lengths and will feed on different shaped flowers. Providing a variety of flower shapes means more bees can benefit.

Don’t use pesticides!
Most pesticides are not selective. You are killing off the beneficial bugs along with the pests. You can make a natural pesticide using Soapnuts to tackle green and blackfly if you need to but spray carefully!