Attracting and caring for bees in your garden

Bee Friendly: Top Tips for Attracting Bees To your Garden

There are many reasons to lay out the welcome mat for bees in your garden and it really is as easy as offering food, shelter and water throughout the year.

As primary pollinators, bees are a vital part of both the human and animal food chains, and an integral link in a healthy, happy garden. Across the world, bees have become vulnerable due to urbanisation and loss of habitat, the overuse of pesticides and modern agricultural practises. One of the best things we can all do for bees is grow our own food, no matter where we live. And of course to do that, we need to attract these hard-working little pollinators into our gardens. Here are our top tips for getting your own backyard buzzing.

1. Plant Bee Attracting Plants

Bees are on the hunt for pollen and it’s so simple for you to provide it. You can scatter a variety of wildflowers to ensure a good supply of pollen through warmer months. Diggers offers a specific Wildflowers for Bees seed mix, suitable for sowing from Autumn-Spring, or you can plant out specific bee attracting perennials like Sedum, Coneflowers, Clover, Lavender, Salvia, Borage and Bergamot. The list goes on – just keep in mind that a bee’s favourite colours are blue, purple and yellow and plan for successive blooms throughout the seasons. Honey bees forage all year, but most native bees take a break mid-winter, when their focus turns to shelter.

2. Provide Habitat and Water

While honeybees live in colonies and hives, most bee species nest underground or in natural cavities. Make sure your garden provides some basic protected habitat for natives. A few patches of partially bare, undisturbed soil will help underground nesters, and some branches, dead trees or a Diggers Bee House will work for others. Don’t forget the water. Bees need a source of shallow water, which can be as basic as a bowl with some floating twigs or corks to provide a landing pad or as elaborate as a pond or irrigation system.

3. Reduce or eliminate pesticide use

Many Australian beekeepers and bee experts cite anecdotal evidence on the negative effects of nearby pesticide use on native and honey bees, however comprehensive studies for the local environment are still in progress. Peer reviewed studies overseas have factored overuse of neonicotinoid pesticides as a cause of bee colony collapse and vulnerability to disease.

The EU has recently voted for a ban on the outdoor use of neonicotinoid pesticides right across Europe, which will come into effect by the end of 2018. Individual gardeners can always seek out plants free of ‘neonics’ and turn to tried and tested organic and natural pest control methods. One of your greatest tools in this regard is companion planting for a diverse ecosystem.

Explore the member’s section of the Diggers website and our member magazines for a wide range of articles on natural and organic pest management.

4. Let your veggies bolt

Seeding plants are a bee’s best friend. All that food gives the bees a chance to bulk up to survive the colder months and make it to spring. It might look messy to an amateur eye, but a healthy garden has a few leafy vegetables bolting after harvest – and you get to save some of the seed.

5. Get to know the locals

It’s important to know the difference between natives to your local area, natives to Australia, introduced species of bees, and wasps. Diggers offers these beautiful bee posters for some States to help ID local species. If we don’t have one for your State yet, the aussiebee or actforbees websites offer a wealth of information on native bees across the country.

6. Become a beekeeper

Urban and backyard beekeeping is in the midst of a revival as we all come to understand the importance of bees in our food cycle and the role that domesticated honey bees can play in pollinating crops and gardens. The honey itself is also a pretty great incentive. Everyone can ensure they buy their honey from a local beekeeper (see map below), or you might even like to become one yourself.

Contact your local beekeeping association and ask about upcoming short courses. Diggers occasionally runs introductory workshops as part of our extensive Learn With Diggers program.

You can create a haven for bees in your backyard with little effort. Your garden, and the planet, will thank you for it.

Native Bee Spotting

Become a master indigenous bee spotter with a beautifully illustrated poster of the native bees of Victoria, NSW and QLD, your ultimate go-to guides for identifying native bees in your neighbourhood.

Buy Local Honey - Support Your Local Beekeepers

Support local beekeepers and enjoy the tastiest, highest quality honey money can buy. Select a location for your local beekeepers and honey resellers.

Take The Bee Friendly Pledge

As primary pollinators, bees are a vital part of both the human and animal food chains.

We commit to raising awareness about the plight of bees and their importance to food security.

We support sustainable, slow food agriculture, and oppose the use of harmful pesticides like neonicotinoids and the herbicide glysophate.

We commit to companion planting bee friendly flowers, maintaining habitat for bees and to supporting local growers and beekeepers by buying local food and honey.

Pledge drafted by The Diggers Club and Save The Bees Australia.

Flowers Bees Love!

Plant a seed to help bees thrive in your garden.

1. Bee Friendly Seed Collection

2. Lavender 

3. Cornflower

4. Borage 

5. Summer flowering perennials eg. ConeflowersSalvia/Sage, Agastache

Articles: Bee Educated

Learn about the issues facing bees and how you can help them thrive.

The threat of bee colony collapse (article)

Bees under threat (article)

The Bee Friendly Garden (book) 

Bee Resourceful

External resources to help you attract, identify and care for bees in your garden.

List of Australian pesticides - Eliminate chemical use in your garden

♦ Save The Bees - Local bee advocate and information resource  

Aussie Native Bees - Preserving indigenous bee communities

ACT For Bees - Councils and communities working together ... for the bees

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BABACO - Champagne Fruit
BABACO - Champagne Fruit
PLANTS: WBAB
A feature plant in our sub-tropical food gardens at Heronswood, this tropical-looking small tree produces lemon sherbet-flavoured melons, also known as 'Champagne Fruit', in its second year. This is the paw-paw for southern gardeners, with the combination of exotic fruit and lush palm- like leaves. No need for a pollinating partner as the Babaco...
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