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Saving Bumblebees


1st September 2006


Bumblebees or all forms of the specie Bombus are having a hard time of it from modern day agriculture. With much overused insecticide sprays that kill insects, the use of herbicides destroying natural wild plants and destruction of natural habitats. All these factors make it very difficult for them to exist in any form on farmland other than organic farms that forswear all the above destructive elements.

Bumblebee in flower

A study in Britain has shown that ordinary gardens can actually contain higher densities of Bumblebees and their nests than the surrounding countryside. Gardens can actually have many more better habitats available for the nesting Bumblebees.
Hedges, fences made of wood and buildings all are very suited for nest areas. Plus many gardens have a rich diversity of plants that offer available food to the Bumblebees.

This large concentration of insects means that as conditions improve within the countryside, once agriculture turns away from destructive intense methods to more environmental or even organic systems. The Bumblebees will once again have sufficient numbers to recolonise areas lost to them.

Improving on Bumblebees numbers
Gardeners can improve the numbers of nesting bumblebees in their gardens with a few changes or additions.
Growing plants that are pollen and nectar rich within the garden creates a beneficial environment for the bees. Many cultivated plants that are grown in gardens encourage bumblebees, these are a few common forms for the garden. A carefully thought out garden can supply food throughout the season, and looks great.

Early flowers.

  • Apples (ornamental Malus varieties as well as fruiting forms).
  • Bluebells (Hyancinthoides non-scripta).
  • Brooms ( Cytisus. There are many varied forms and colours).
  • Cherries (most forms of Prunus).
  • Currants (all forms of Ribes, flowering ornamentals and fruiting forms).
  • Dead Nettles (Lamiums really do attract and come in varied ornamental forms).
  • Heathers (Ericas and Callunas. Planting a wide variety covers a long season)
  • Pears (Pyrus, fruiting and ornamental forms).
  • Willow ( Early flowering forms such as pussy willow are very valuable).
  • Lungworts (Pulminarias come in many ornamental forms for the garden).

Mid Summer.

  • Campanula (various forms available all valuable).
  • California Lilac ( Ceanothus. From small varieties to very large all are valuable).
  • Comfrey ( Symphytum, available as a herb and various nice ornamental forms).
  • Cotoneaster (Many varied forms and many bear berries that are valuable food for other wild life).
  • Escallonia ( Many varied forms, some interesting ornamental leafed kinds).
  • Everlasting pea or perennial Sweetpea ( Lathyrus latiflious, easy to grow climber and long lived).
  • Everlasting Wallflower (Erysimums come in many varieties and lovely colours).
  • Foxgloves ( Digitalis are well known for attracting Bees, many forms to choose from biennial to perennial types).
  • Geranium (This is the true hardy Geranium as opposed to the Pelargonium. Different varieties available, some more attractive to Bumbles than others).
  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera should be in every garden for the delicious scent. Plant several kinds for a long season of flower).
  • Lupin (Lupinus, an old cottage garden plant, great attractor).
  • Monkshood (Aconitum. Grow various varieties to extend the season, itís a good substiute for Delphiniums as slugs donít touch them, they are too poisonous to eat!).
  • Poppies (Papaver. Both the annual Poppy and the perennial Poppy are attractors to Bumbles).
  • Roses. ( Single flowered forms of roses attract, nearer to specie roses unlike the more dense very cultivated forms).
  • Wallflowers. (Cherianthus. An old cottage plant and very valuable).
  • Wisteria. (Wisteria sinensis comes in a number of varieties and a must have for itís glorious scent, it is also easier to grow than most people think).

Later Season.

  • Brambles (Rubus. Wild Brambles or blackberries can be grown in the garden for the delicious fruits just as the same a cultivated forms. There are also other ornamental varieties to be grown).
  • Butterfly bush (Buddleias come in a number of varieties, the best attractor is still Buddleia davidii as the mauve form that also has the added bonus of attracting butterflies).
  • Cornflowers (Centaurea. Old cottage garden plants, both the annual cornflower and perennial types are valuable).
  • Hollyhock (Althaea. Choose the single forms to attract).
  • Jacob's ladder (Polemonium. Easy garden plants with a number of attractive varieties.
  • Lavender (Lavendula. Many types to grow all attract).
  • Penstemon (Many forms to choose from).
  • Loosestrife (Lysimachia. Very easy garden plants including some nice variegated forms which are just as valuable).
  • Snapdragons (Antirrhinums. Although usually grown as annuals the incana varieties can be classed a short-term perennials. Antirrhinums available in many colours and varieties).

Growing a wide variety of plants within the garden creates a diversity of types to suit the different specie of Bumblebees that may visit. Each type of Bumblebee has a different length of tongue which means each will need a different plant to supply it with the nectar it needs, this is the reason for wide diversity of plants being needed within the garden.

Plant a Hedge.
When planting a hedge try to choose deciduous hedging plants rather than conifers as they offer more nesting opportunities for bumblebees due to the richer environment found underneath them.

By erecting a wooden fence rather than just a wire fence creates lots of nooks and crannies that encourage Bumblebees to nest.

Wild area.
Leave a patch of the garden wild, a wild area increases diversity in the garden. Let the corner of the lawn grow unmown or more if you can. Bumblebees will love it as well as other wildlife who will be attracted there.
Plant more wild flowers amongst cultivated forms within an ordinary garden. Many are very attractive and deserve a place within any garden.

Growing organically in the garden is one of the biggest factors in encouraging wildlife of all kinds to thrive there.

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