The honeybee is in decline due to Varroa mites spreading the Varroa Destructor Bee Virus.
This summer I have been entertained by a large number of bumblebees waltzing around the lavender plants I salvaged from the local garden centre for fifty pence a pot two years ago. I also watched honeybees balletically competing for the flower heads with the big guys. But they were outnumbered, not because it suggests the honeybee population is smaller but because the honeybee, slimmer in shape and lighter in colour than the bumblebee, is disadvantaged by a shorter tongue. Having a short tongue makes it hard to source nectar/pollen from tubular flowers like lavender.
A recent study published in The Royal Entomological Society observed that harvesting honeybee numbers increased when plants like borage and flowers with flat or bell shaped heads were growing in people’s gardens. This, of course, doesn’t mean that gardeners who planted great swathes of lavender with the intention of supporting the honeybee population should rush out and start ripping up their gardens. Lavender, which flowers for many months, offers an unlimited supply of nectar to butterflies and both genus of bee. It does mean that with a bit more thoughtful planting more honeybees would have visited my little laissez-faire garden.
I say laissez fare because I do not use pesticides, weed killer or synthetic fertilisers. I have no need of a hoe because the density of my planting means the weeds seed fail to germinate, most of the time. Nor do I adhere to the pansy and petunia mentality of gardening where everything is planted in straight lines and slug pelleted to the hilt. There are Hostas, again salvaged from the garden centre, also growing in a circular bed I inherited from its predecessor but I am of the attitude if Senor Slug decides it’s Tapas time, Lady Thrush will also benefit.
Here’s a little tip on how to accommodate the honeybee without it becoming a costly business. Now is the time to bring home bargain price garden-centre Scabious and plant in patches where summer bedding is past its best. It is a hardy perennial plant, which survives frost and thrives in many soil types. Senor Slug doesn’t like dining on it either. I purchased two last year for one pound each and gave them to my neighbour Kim, who tends the other circular flower bed in our communal garden. This year she was rewarded with lots of butterflies and honeybees. Unfortunately my friend is an apiphobe—afraid of bees. It was amusing to see her tap-dancing in her patch every time she came down from her flat to weed. I know I should have been a little more straight faced to her plight but this lassiez-faire gardener has an earthy sense of humour and perhaps I was Gnome in a past life.