It is very hard as an ordinary garden to know what we can do, but here are a few suggestions starting with the pesticides and the controversy which surrounded so called "Bee Friendly "plants. In a push to encourage gardeners to plant for bees, some plants were identified, especially as "Bee Friendly". Later it was discovered these "Bee Friendly " plants had been sprayed with various insecticides, which rather defeated the objective. Attracting bees to plants which have chemical residue is not good for the bees.
Neonicotinoids were then banned which means that "Bee Friendly" plants are no longer sprayed with this chemical, but it is hard for the average gardener to know what the grower has used to bring the healthy-looking plant to market. One way to be sure is to raise some plants from seed, or buy organic.
There is an increasing trend to buy organic plants which are raised in an eco friendly, peat free environment and, importantly, from the bees' perspective, grown without the use of chemicals. The provenance of plants is becoming important, as is now the case with the provenance of food. We are more interested where are food comes from; we need to be more interested where the bees' food comes from as well.
The second step to help Bumblebees is to create a friendly environment. In part, this is to provide food and listed below are plants which provide nectar from early in the year to late Autumn. All round food is important to Bumblebees. Also, if you can allow part of your garden to be wild, with native wildflowers, this is a bee friendly environment.
If you want to identify what sort of bee is in your garden, this is a great free guide from Friends of the Earth with good clear descriptions and illustrations.
If you are interested in creating a more wildlife friendly garden, the Sunday Gardener has several pages with information about plants and shrubs which are attractive to bees and butterflies.
- Wildlife friendly plants
- 10 Best plants for Bees and Butterflies
- Plants for Butterflies
- Spring Flowering plants attractive to Bees
- Plants for Bees
- How to Create a wildflower area
- How to create a wild garden
Having an area in the garden which is less tended, let leaf litter accumulate (good for nesting) with areas of unmown grass and native wildflowers is great for many pollinators. Bumblebees are attracted to many wild flowers, one of the best is Red Clover. The image below is of a part of my garden which has been left over an extended period to go its own way. It does require a little attention to take back some thugs so that there are not too many brambles, rosebay willowherb and to keep a balance.
Leaving this area to its own devices has allowed Marsh Marigolds, Red and White Campion, Nettles, Meadow Sweet, Cow Parsley, Persicaria bistorta, Primula, Foxglove, Buttercup, Daisy, Wild Flag Iris, Ivy leaved Toad Flax, wild orchid, and Ferns to take root in the wild area over the years. Into which I have also introduced Bluebells, Hellebores, Pulmonaria and Meadow Geranium. Below is an image of part of the area in late spring showing the untended the wild area.
Sunday gardener video about creating a wild garden.
The scientific journals suggest that ensuring there are cooler shady areas in the garden would be helpful for Bumblebees to provide a haven on hot days. Planting a mix of trees and shrubs will provide shade and also some shrubs which ameliorate the effects of pollution well worth considering.