One very important addition to any growers are the bees, and whilst many edible plants have a brilliant array of flowers, many have small insignificant, uninspiring flowers. We can help by companion planting and I’m sure the bees would be happy knowing they were your companions. In my non-food producing garden, for me that is, although the slugs and snails are quite happy with it and the frogs are absolutely delirious about the happy slugs and snails, I need to make sure my little pollinators are very happy too.
This year, I must have made the bees very happy because they moved into my home. Not inside the house exactly but through the vent under the kitchen window and have been living between the inner and outer wall. I will wait until they leave before I block it up. I have always liked bees and next to elephants, they are one of my most favourite creatures. I am so happy I don’t get them confused though, there just isn’t room in the garden!
As a child I watched a bee at work on a flower and I dared to stroke it’s back, it never flinched and I felt very brave. I can’t say they are very elegant when it comes to flying, the landing techniques resemble a helicopter trying to land in gale force winds.
Recent concerns about the decline in population of bees brought it home when my daughter took a photograph of the dying queen red-tailed bee from the hive on their garden shed. A close look at her clearly shows the parasites on her back, and on a closer look, you will see them under her wings. As a result of that, I joined the Bee Conservation Trust
Another thing I did was pay a visit to a Tibetan monastery which is not too far from us and I was very impressed with their methods of planting foods. They depend on companion planting and I don’t think I’ve seen so many healthy looking courgette plants living side by side with Marigolds (Calendula officinalis) aka English Marigold, Tagetes, Pot Marigold. They had Nasturtiums in the greenhouse with the tomatoes. Obviously by companion planting, the plants were helping each other by encouraging the pollinators.
I don’t do things by half normally and my little bee visitors were the tiny white-tailed variety, the biggest being about 18mm long. My pink Cranesbill Geranium was covered in flowers, Hosta flowers were popular but more so were the Phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia). The rolls of flower buds uncoil as the flowers open. (There is a bee posing on a flower stem in the photo, just right of the Yacon leaf.)
In the same pot there was Poached Egg Plant (Limnanthes douglasii), another plant popular with pollinators although in this case they were over-shadowed by the Phacelia and the fact they were between the Sweet Potato containers and the fence.
Bees have always been important to our survival and perhaps the saying “tell it to the bees” was a mark of the respect of that importance. In some countries it is traditional to mark an event such as a birth, death or marriage by telling the bees. If a beekeeper died, the bees needed assurance that someone would care for them lest ill luck befall them, or they would leave the hive. However in a very practical way, bees and other pollinators are responsible to ensure there is seed set for the next year. No pollination – no food, it’s as simple as that and for manufacturers of farming systematic pesticides which also kills the bees, it defies logic.
Take note of which plants in your area are popular with the pollinators and lay on a feast for them. The cute and curious little hoverflies along with other flying insects make great co-workers for the bees. Bee good to them and everyone will bee happy.
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