Go Organic: Get your own bee hotelBy James Ashford
March 16, 2012
The University of Reading unveiled its newest building this week – a hotel for bees.
There has been a severe decline in honeybees over the last 30 years, which is bad news for beekeepers and bad news for gardeners.
The good news is that wild bees seem to have filled the gap and do much of the pollination work that used to be done by their tame cousins.
Without the work they do we would struggle to get any fruit or vegetables from our gardens.
There are around 250 species of wild bees in the UK and most of them don’t live in large colonies like honeybees do, but are solitary creatures which make their nests in cracks and crevices.
Bumblebees fall into this category and you will see the larger-than-usual queens looking for new nesting sites in the next few weeks.
The cavity nesting bees are particularly good at pollinating food crops and you can encourage them to visit your garden by providing extra places for them to live.
The university’s bee hotel is a grand affair, but you can buy or make a smaller version for your own garden.
You just need a container which will hold some horizontal tubes for the bees to nest in.
It needs to be waterproof and bird-proof, but it can be just about any shape of size.
It is also worth putting in some bee-friendly plants to attract your new guests into the garden.
They visit quite a wide range of ornamental flowering plants as well as vegetable and fruit crops which we need them to pollinate.
If you want to get a good spread of bees you need plants which will blossom at different times throughout the season.
Rosemary is an excellent early-season food source for bees as well as being useful in the kitchen.
Opium poppies attract bees like a magnet as do hellebores, hebes, honeysuckle, heathers and lavender.
Bumblebees are essential for pollinating tomatoes and they love that organic garden essential, comfrey, as well as Viper’s bugloss.