As a child I would climb the next door fence to Reg’s yard. Long abandoned by hands too tired for care, nature’s tendrils had stretched and delved into brick and concrete. Grass once meticulously mown had overgrown into a field of clover so lush and green, the softest feather doona could not compare to the feeling of lying amongst it. And the flowers. Every weed transformed from unwanted guests to elegant beauties beckoning bees to visit with their satiny hands. On warm afternoons Reg’s backyard hummed with activity. Nectar supping, pollen gathering and much dancing from blossom to blossom. This secret garden was not only a haven for me but also for the bees.
Sadly, these life giving creatures can no longer visit Reg’s yard. In its place are concrete pavers, a manicured lawn and architectural succulents bereft of flowers. And next door, across the road, or down the street they are likely to be faced with this same barrenness. The trend for simple, fuss free gardens all angular and green are coming at a price. The bees’ (and all other insects’) habitat is vanishing…and so are they.
But what can we do to welcome these vital pollinators back into our backyards? Here are some simple ways to create a bee friendly garden:
- Provide food. Flowers as far as the eye can see is utopia for a bee and while our garden may not support such ideals a jumble of pots of mixed flower shapes, colours and flowering patterns both introduced and native species will provide a nectar and pollen buffet all year round. When you next plan a garden spruce up, favour flowering natives and marvel at the wildlife that you attract.
- Provide water. Bees, and all other creatures that visit your garden, need water for life. Hunt out an old bird bath or terracotta pot base to provide a place for refreshment. Ensure that it isn’t too deep and has sloping sides to encourage all manner of birds to visit and add some foraged river stones for drinking platforms for bees and insects.
- Provide habitat. Have your children create clay homes for burrowing bees (and other solitary insects) by mounding clay into domes and prodding holes with sticks or busy fingers. Drill into some discarded timber and a few bricks and leave these about the yard to provide homes for solitary bees such as the Blue Banded Bee.
- Make it safe. That pesticide you use to ward off the voracious cabbage moth is also poison to beneficial insects. Scrutinise the chemical you are using in and around your home and explore greener alternatives. Boiling water poured over weeds is as effective as any toxic herbicide. And nothing quite beats the “pick off and feed to the chickens” approach to caterpillar culling.
- Enjoy it. Surrounding yourself with a carnival of flowers and encouraging wildlife to explore it is something to be relished. Find a spot for a small secondhand table and chair, or simply keep a picnic blanket handy to throw under a tree when insect watching and grounding is yearned for.