Our wild bees and common butterflies have been in decline over the past 50 years. Wild flowers in the countryside have also de- creased, making it more important to provide habitats where these insects can find two rich sources of food - nectar and pollen. Nectar contains sugar and is a vital energy source, pollen contains proteins and oils.
By planting nectar and pollen rich flowers over a long season, you can help reduce this trend. For your efforts, an abundance of pollinators will ensure your garden plants will be fertilised and continue to reproduce through seed and fruit.
Whilst pollen and nectar are important to both bees and butterflies, for bees they are essential. They provide the complete diet for both adult bees and their larvae, without it they will struggle to survive.
To see butterflies in your garden, you need to entice them with the right flowers. Adult butterflies take from a wide variety of wild and garden flowers, particularly those growing in warm sheltered places. Butterflies with their long tongues, can reach nectar in flowers that is inaccessible to most insects. Leave fallen fruit under fruit trees. In late summer butterflies, such as red admiral and painted lady, will feed on fruit juices in fallen over-ripe pears, plums and apples. The common Buddleja which is known as the butterfly bush, really stands up to its name as it does become covered in butterflies. Equally attractive is the late summer flowering Sedum which can be planted around the base of the Buddleja to provide a butterfly feast. Butterflies can be encouraged to visit gardens by growing a range of suitable flowers from March until frosty weather ends the butterfly season, in October-November.
There are 25 species of bumblebee in Britain, but only around 11 commonly visit the garden. Bees often recruit other bees to visit a good flower. They perform a figure of eight dance on the combs in the hive which tells them how far and in which direction they need to fly - amazing! Honeybees can detect ultraviolet light meaning that they can see patterns on petals that are invisible to us. Bees see colour differently, and are attracted to blues (and yellow which they see as blue). Most herbs are bee magnets, oregano and chives are often covered with masses of bees and insects. Bees cannot get enough of Oregano, Alliums , Foxgloves and Veronicastrum. Plant some or all of these in your garden to encourage more bees.
However try to keep pesticides at a minimum on plants when they are in flower. Common pesticides which contain neonicotinoids (also known as neonics), are extremely harmful to bees and should be avoided at all costs. Make sure to spray plants in the evening when bees have stopped collecting nectar, this allows plenty of time for the pesticide to dry before bees come out to work again.
Come on create a buzz and flutter in your garden!