We are all too aware of the importance of bees, and the key role they play within our fragile ecosystem. Pesticides have posed a direct threat to bees for decades, alongside industrial agriculture, parasites/pathogens and climate change. The combined loss of biodiversity due to mass farming of singular crops have wiped over 9 million hectares of diverse rich land from bees and other pollinating insects and animals.
“Bees have so much to offer us if we only listen.” — Painted Hives
From pollination, germination, penetration and fertilisation; it makes for a romantic process by mother nature. But how can we assist our winged Apoidea?
To protect not just our bees but also our agriculture, we must make the shift toward promoting ecological farming, with bee friendly crop management. However small, fundamental steps to encourage bees begin in our gardens and communal spaces. Sadly, the countryside just isn’t diverse enough to support bees, which makes for sad commentary when our gardens are proving to be a more ideal habitat for them.
“Handle a book as a bee does a flower.” — John Muir
Providing plants which are adored by bees, such as pussy willow, lavender, hornthorn, honeysuckle and ivy provide vital food throughout the year for bees. To encourage biodiversity, allow areas of grass to grow with open pollinated seeds scattered throughout. This not only makes for happy bees, but also encourages other beneficial insects such as beetles and hoverflies, allies for both bees and us in tackling pests.
“The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.” — Henry David Thoreau
Not only do we need to provide habitat, food and water for bees, we can also help by providing them with a cosy home too. A recent trend for large ornate ‘bee hotels’, compromising of many ‘rooms’ make for attractive features in our gardens, but can prove harmful for bees by attracting pests and diseases. The key is to keep them small and keep them simple. Multiple blocks of 15 x 15 inches filled with trimmed reeds, straw, pinecones or clay air bricks will prove to be enticing homes. These smaller dwellings scattered across a larger area will allow solitary bees to nest and lay eggs with little disturbances. It is also essential to replace nesting areas of hotels every couple of years, ensuring parasites and infestations do not set in. A bee hotel must also be positioned securely, at least 3 feet above ground and facing south or south west in direct sunlight. Do not be tempted to hide the entrance with vegetation either, this will only discourage bees from nesting and taking up residence.
“Nature, it seems, has a way of returning things to how they should be.” ― Fennel Hudson
Through innovative and compassionate design, Latis deliver sustainable homes that are built to put back into biodiversity. From the integration of nectar rich flowers in gardens, planters and sedum pods; to considerately designed bee hotels and bee friendly pesticides used in community allotments. Letting bees be the guide and ally will transform areas of our community into biodiverse land, be in our own garden or in the countryside. This not only controls pest naturally, but also pollinates our plants and crops for free; and I think we can all agree, that’s more than a fair trade.
Bee Hotel in action © Flickr Pen State