Make a bee-line to help

A Generic Photo of bee on lavender. See PA Feature GARDENING Gardening Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature GARDENING Gardening Column.
A Generic Photo of bee on lavender. See PA Feature GARDENING Gardening Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature GARDENING Gardening Column.
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AS bee populations continue to dwindle due to bad weather, experts offer tips on how gardeners can help conserve these vital pollinators.

Last year’s annual survey by the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) indicated an increase in losses of honey bees and the organisation is concerned that losses may be even greater this year if the long winter is anything to go by.

Undated Handout Photo of annual wildflowers at RHS Garden, Wisley. See PA Feature GARDENING Gardening Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Sarah Cuttle/RHS. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature GARDENING Gardening Column.

Undated Handout Photo of annual wildflowers at RHS Garden, Wisley. See PA Feature GARDENING Gardening Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Sarah Cuttle/RHS. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature GARDENING Gardening Column.

“Much longer winters mean that bees are potentially running out of stores,” says Gill Maclean, BBKA spokeswoman.

“We don’t yet know what the losses will be for this year but we are concerned that they are going to be greater than they were last year.”

Weather-related impacts such as cold spells affect colony development and queen-mating. Honey bees don’t forage in very cold or wet weather, so their winter stores were depleted last year.

The honey bee is the only bee to maintain a colony throughout the winter, reducing its colony size in autumn and relying on its stores of honey to last it through the winter months when it is too cold for foraging or there is no forage available.

Gardeners can do their bit to help bees, says Maclean.

“Planting the right sort of plant is important and try to plant in drifts. There are so many bee-friendly plants including thyme, oregano, mint and viburnum. Plant some trees for bees as well, including spring-flowering cherries, apples, plums and pears.”

Other trees that are widely visited are the horse chestnut for its nectar and sycamore for its pollen. She also advises gardeners to set aside part of the garden as a decorative wildflower area which will be a magnet for bees, planting white and red clover, borage, thyme, bugle and other bee-friendly plants.