Action 5 – Gardening for bees

An action that might inspire all armchair gardeners and those of us that are longing to get out into nature is to consider planting for bees.  There are some useful links below and many garden centres have dedicated sections on their website highlighting plants that are attractive to bees and to pollinators.

Galway Beekeepers have a link to flora that is suitable for plants.

The National Biodiversity Centre has a great website with loads of information on all pollinators including bees.  You can also join in an insect count which would be a lovely activity with children once the bees start a buzzing

Connemara Beekeepers have a new course starting on the 24th of Feb link to details

By growing a good mix of flowering plants in your garden, you can provide a wealth of nectar and pollen for a wide range of bee species.

Bees like single, open flowers where you can see the central part of the flower – where the bees can access the nectar and pollen.

Different bees are active at different times of the year. Some emerge from hibernation as early as February, while others are still flying in November. To give bees the best possible chance to thrive, it’s therefore important to grow flowers from late winter to autumn – all year round if possible.

Most double flowers are of little use, as they have so many petals the bees can’t get to the central part of the flower, where the nectar and pollen are found. Roses and dahlias are often bred to have double flowers, but there are plenty of beautiful single-flowered roses and dahlias varieties to grow, instead.

Bees can see the colour purple more clearly than any other colour, and some of the best bee plants, such as lavenderalliumsbuddleja and catmint, have purple flowers. That said, many flowers in other colours will still attract bees, so don’t pull them up!

Tubular-shaped flowers such as foxgloveshoneysucklepenstemons and snapdragons are an important source of food for long-tongued bees such as the garden bumblebee, Bombus hortorum.

Most bees are most active from March to September, but some emerge from hibernation early in mild winters, while buff-tailed bumblebee queens will occasionally start nesting in autumn, rather than hibernating, establishing a ‘winter colony’. Aim to have at least two nectar- or pollen-rich plants in flower during winter. Plants like ivy, winter honeysuckle and winter clematis are perfect for the job.


Spring flowers for bees

Best plants for bees – spring flowers for bees

  • Bluebell
  • Bugle
  • Crab apple
  • Crocus
  • Flowering cherry and currant
  • Forget-me-not
  • Hawthorn
  • Primrose
  • Pulmonaria
  • Rhododendron
  • Rosemary

Early summer flowers for bees

  • Campanula Foxglove
  • Hardy geranium
  • Honesty
  • Thyme
  • Comfrey
  • Delphinium
  • Hollyhock
  • Potentilla
  • Snapdragon
  • Stachys
  • Teasel
  • Verbascu

Late summer flowers for bees

  • Aster
  • Echium blue bedder
  • Buddleja
  • Cardoon
  • Cornflower
  • Dahlia (single-flowered)
  • Eryngium
  • Globe thistle
  • Heather
  • Ivy
  • Lavender
  • Penstemon
  • Scabious
  • Sedum
  • Verbena bonariensis

Later on in the year consider growing Planting spring bulbs? A great way to help bees in spring is to plant spring-flowering bulbs in autumn. Bulbs are hardy and reliable plants, so you can guarantee the bees will have a source of pollen and nectar when there’s little else in flower.

Planting bulbs in containers is an easy way to ensure you don’t miss their colourful displays, especially if they’re along the front path, next to the back door or on your patio. Choosing varieties that are rich in both nectar and pollen will be a lifeline for the first emerging bumblebees, some of which come out from hibernation as early as February. Plant bulbs that flower over a long season, including early-flowering crocus and late-spring flowering fritillaries. By combining bulbs, you’ll not only create eye catching pots but attract different pollinators, too.

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