In the United Kingdom there are currently 25 species of Bumblebee and they are all on the decline. Bumblebees are essential, as they play a huge part in pollinating rare plants, flowers, vegetables and fruit. Some of these species of plants are not pollinated by any other insect. Bumblebees use a method called ‘buzz pollination’ to pollinate plants, meaning they vibrate their wings to shake the pollen of the flowers.
They use pollen and nectar to feed their colonies and pollinate our flowers later in the year to benefit the other wildlife that feed on the resulting fruit and seeds that are grown as a consequence.
Bumblebees actually have different lengths of tongue, so, to help preserve Bumblebees they need different types of plants, obviously those including different sizes of flowers, to cater for the difference in the length of the Bumblebees tongues. These include the single flower headed wild and garden flowers, especially the native and traditional cottage garden flowers.
To help stop the decline in Bumblebee species, planting Bumblebee friendly plants can help, with the added benefit of attracting up to 10 different species of Bumblebee into your garden.
You could help Bumblebees by making a wooden home for them. Make a box, like a bird box but it has two rooms – one for the queen bee and one for the rest of the colony. The queen’s section needs wood shaving in it, as this is where she breeds. You could also make a box like a bird box, but fill it with empty pieces of bamboo, as other types of bees would use this as a nest.
Other types of Bumblebee nest in moss or grass, so leaving an area of grass, that includes clover or catmint around it will attract them and give them somewhere to nest.
Bees like to be near their food source and in a warm sunny spot – although not in direct sunlight. Near a wall, hedge or flower bed is ideal, although make sure you face the entrance downwards, as this will stop the rain from entering.
Insecticides and pesticides are harmful to Bumblebees as well as all other essential pollinating insects. Going organic would be the perfect option, however if this is not easy for you, at least make sure you keep the use of chemicals in your garden to a minimum.
Finally, it is worth remembering that all insects need a water supply. Make it shallow, safe for them to drink from and sheltered too.