What’s the buzz?

Why is attracting bees to your garden important? These valuable little visitors pollinate many of your plants. In fact, over 75% of the world’s flowering plants rely on pollinators like bees to reproduce. Without bees, your garden and the world would look very bare.

Bees are the world’s best pollinators because they collect pollen from flowers to feed their young. Sadly bee populations in Australia and around the world are declining. As we clear land for urban development, remove plants, create flowerless landscapes and use harmful chemicals on our plants, we cause bee population losses. The good news is you can help, by encouraging bees to your garden.

 

Why native bees?

Australia is home to 1,600 different native bee species - quite impressive when you consider there are around 20,000 bee varieties worldwide. Most of these native bees are solitary and live alone, and although they don’t make honey, they are important pollinators.

Our native bees are beautiful and diverse. Some are covered in thick, furry hair while others are smooth and shiny. Some sport yellow and black stripes while others are blue in colour. They come in a range of sizes too, from the spectacular 24 millimetre carpenter bee to the world’s smallest bee, the 2 millimetre Quasihesma bee.

 

1. Create a bee habitat garden

Bees are after one thing and that’s the food in flowers: pollen and nectar. So the more flowers in your garden, the more bees you’ll attract.

But some flowers are more attractive to bees than others. This is because they may have more pollen and nectar, they may flower at a time when there aren’t many other plants in flower or the flower structure may simply be better for landing and feasting.

By planting a mix of plants, which flower throughout the year, you’re giving bees a regular food supply. This will encourage them to stay, feed, drink, shelter and even reproduce in your garden.

Rather than scattering flowers randomly, plant large patches. This encourages bees to forage and cross pollinate the plants as they move efficiently from flower to flower. Water your flowers deeply and often to ensure flowers produce plenty of nectar and pollen.

 

2. Choose plants native bees love

Most native bees have cleverly evolved to collect pollen and nectar from native and non-native flowering plants, making them ‘generalist’ foragers. But there are around 100 species of native bees that are specialist bees, so it’s worth planting a handful of native plants in your garden too.

Below are lists of the best bee-attracting flowers to include in your garden.

Native plants Non-native plants Herbs (when in flower)
  • banksia
  • bottlebrush
  • brachyscome
  • bursaria
  • chocolate lily
  • correa
  • dianella
  • dillwynia
  • eremophila
  • eucalypt
  • fringe lily
  • grevillea
  • gum trees
  • hakea
  • hardenbergia
  • hibiscus
  • lilly pilly
  • olearia
  • persoonia
  • prostanthera
  • pultenaea
  • scaevola
  • tea-tree
  • tetratheca
  • wahlenbergia
  • westringia
  • xerochrysu
  • abelia
  • alyssum
  • buddleia
  • calendula
  • cosmos
  • dahlia
  • daisies
  • diosma
  • hebe
  • lavender
  • marigold
  • penstemon
  • phacelia
  • Queen Anne’s lace
  • roses
  • salvia
  • basil
  • borage
  • celery
  • coriander
  • dill
  • fennel
  • hyssop
  • mint
  • native mint
  • oregano
  • parsley
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • thyme
  • yarrow

 

Flowering vegetables Fruiting trees and bushes Nut trees
  • beans
  • capsicum
  • cucumber
  • eggplant
  • peas
  • pumpkin
  • tomato
  • zucchini
  • almonds
  • macadamia

 

Sacrificial vegetables When these flowering vegetables bolt, they make great bee food. Select a few to ‘sacrifice’ and let them bolt to flower:
  • bok choy
  • celery
  • leek
  • radish
  • shallot

 

3. Provide shelter

Native bees don’t build the structures we associate with honeybees, but they do need places to nest, which vary depending on the species.

Resin and leafcutter bees will nest in large drilled holes in wood, which mimic the natural cavities produced by wood-boring insects. Resin bees also like to shelter in small cavities in rockeries or layers of rolled bark. Hollow stems can be bundled up to attract reed and masked bees.

In Australia, we’re encouraged to mulch our plants, but native bees that nest in the ground find it hard to dig through thick layers of mulch. So leave an area of bare ground, at least a metre squared, to encourage ground-nesting bees into your garden.

*The above information was put together with the help of Megan Halcroft of Bees Business.

 

4. Avoid using chemicals in your garden

Unfortunately some garden chemicals are harmful to bees. If you want to attract bees, steer away from products that contain neonicotinoids. Consider only applying chemicals to infested areas, avoid or minimise sprays during flowering and avoid spraying when you can see bees actively foraging in your plants. If you need an insecticide, try eco-oil or eco-neem which are bee safe. If a plant is infested with many pests, it may simply need feeding, pruning or pulling out. There are also many home remedies you can try. Click to discover our list of 13 easy homemade pest controls.