Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bumblebees need gardeners' help urges Garden Organic

Garden Organic News

Wednesday 3 June 2009

Bumblebees need gardeners' help urges Garden Organic

Garden flowerbeds combined with untended garden areas could help protect Britain's declining bumblebee population, according to a survey by the UK's leading organic growing charity.

Garden Organic, whose members last year surveyed the habits and numbers of bumblebees in their back gardens, discovered that flowerbeds and borders for foraging accounted for 65% of all bee sightings, while three quarters of the participants that actively encouraged bees to nest, felt scrub areas were more effective than bee boxes as nesting habitats.

As a result of the findings the charity is now urging more of us to create flower-rich refuges in our gardens to better protect bumblebee populations, thought to have halved since the 1950s.

In its survey Garden Organic's members not only counted 14,305 bees � which all participants felt was lower than in previous years - but also the types of plants they most often visited. And while Foxglove and Pulmonaria proved the most popular ornamentals, herbs such as Lavender and Comfrey proved most popular to the bees overall.

Gemma Sutton, who led the Garden Organic survey, said, “As long as we don't pave them over or make them overly tidy, our gardens can be very friendly spaces for bees. British gardening habits, whereby our gardens are in bloom for a large portion of the year, help by offering a diverse variety of flowering plants, which provide a consistent source of nectar and pollen. This is great news for bumblebees, which flock to plants like Pulmonaria early in the year and sedum late in the season.”

“It's vital that we do more to attract bees to the garden, but with concern over the disappearance of the honeybee we are forgetting that we need to conserve bumblebees too. The ongoing threat of modern farming techniques, which destroy the flowers bumblebees feed on and their nesting habitats, is just one of the reasons why we're urging people to fill their gardens with more of the plants that came out top in our survey. Leaving informal areas in your garden such as long grass, compost heaps and hedges and garden will also help to provide vital nesting sites.”

And it's not only flowers that could help bring the bumblebees back. This year's grow your own phenomenon could help too as Garden Organic also found that flowering shrubs and vegetable patches, which accounted for 23% of all sightings, also act as great attractants, with bees regularly visiting raspberries and beans.


The top twenty 'bee attracting' plants surveyed by Garden Organic members:

The # = Number of occasions each plant was recorded as being visited by bees

Family                Latin Name              Commmon Name         #

Lamiaceae Lavandula species Lavender 70
Boraginaceae Symphytum species Comfrey 54
Rosaceae Rubus species Raspberry 39
Plantaginaceae Digitalis species Foxglove 36
Boraginaceae Pulmonaria species Pulmonaria 35
Geraniaceae Geranium species Geranium 35
Boraginaceae Borago officinalis Borage 33
Ericaceae Calluna vulgaris Heather 29
Onagraceae Fuchsia species Fuchsia 27
Ranunculaceae Aquilegia species Aquilegia 26
Scrophulariaceae Buddleja species Buddleia 26
Crassulaceae Sedum species Sedum 24
Plantaginaceae Hebe species Hebe 24
Lamiaceae Origanum majorana Marjoram 23
Lamiaceae Rosmarinus officinalis Rosemary 23
Tropaeolaceae Tropaeolum majus Nasturtium 23
Rosaceae Cotoneaster species Cotoneaster 22
Caprifoliaceae Lonicera species Honeysuckle 20
Fabaceae Trifolium species Clover 19
Lamiaceae Salvia species Sage 19                                                                       

Further findings from the survey:
  • A total of 166 members took part in Garden Organic's 2008 bumblebee survey, and between them they recorded a total of 14,305 bees.
  • The buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) was the most common species during this trial, with 4,356 being recorded.
  • Of 166 participants, 128 participants stated that they actively encourage bees into their gardens.
  • The survey found that the most popular way of attracting bees was by growing flowers � a technique used by 116 participants.
  • Growing native flowers was also regarded as important by a 1/4 of the 166 participants.
  • A total of 13 participants had bumblebee nest boxes in their gardens, but 3/4 thought they were unsuccessful compared to natural nesting habitats
Top tips from Garden Organic on how to attract and support bee populations
  • Grow a mixture of flowering plants to provide nectar and pollen from spring until winter
  • Grow simple flowers, as their nectar and pollen is more accessible to bees
  • Include native wildflowers such as foxglove, Viper's bugloss and Geranium species in the garden as all are popular with bees
  • Tried and tested bee attracting plants include pulmonaria, comfrey, lavender, foxgloves, raspberries, marjoram and buddleia
  • Don't forget to leave parts of your garden informal to provide nesting sites
  • If you can, leave an area of your lawn uncut during summer to allow clover to flower
There are 25 species of bumblebee in the UK. Three species of bumblebee are now extinct and seven are listed in the Government's Biodiversity Action Plan (UK Bap) as priorities for conservation; only six of our native bumblebees are regarded as widespread and common. To read the full scientific report on the bumblebee survey visit www.gardenorganic.org.uk . For more 'bee attracting' ideas visit Garden Organic Ryton in Warwickshire � ten acres of organic, wildlife friendly demonstration gardens, which include a dedicated bee garden.
For more information contact Charlotte Corner on 02476 217707 or email at: ccorner@gardenorganic.org.uk

Notes to editors
  • Garden Organic is the UK's leading organic growing charity dedicated to researching and promoting organic gardening, farming and food and has been at the forefront of the organic horticulture movement for 50 years.
  • The charity, which has over 40,000 supporters, reaches more than three million beneficiaries across the world and is based at Garden Organic Ryton in Warwickshire.
  • The organisation runs major research and international development programmes that help growers across the UK and overseas adopt organic methods.
  • To find out more visit www.gardenorganic.org.uk
Note from Sustainable Urban Gardens: This article is not hot-off-the-press and is from the UK, but this important information is so clearly stated and is pertinent for all growing areas that we felt it was important to share with you.
We ask that you post how many of these bumblebee attractants you are growing in your urban garden or farm. We welcome your input and any comments!
Thank You!


  1. I have 13 out of the 20 plants posted above. Much of the time I grow 4 others that I don't have this year - Foxglove, Pulmonaria, Borage and Buddleia.

    So, here are my current 13 attractant plants that I have growing this year: Lavender, Comfrey, Raspberry, Geranium, Heather, Fushia, Aquilegia, Hebe, Marjoram, Rosemary, Nasturtium, Honeysuckle and Sage.

    All of these plants are easy to grow and do attract native bees as well as other diverse pollinators.

  2. Pulmonarias are great at attracting bees. Here is a link from Plant Delights Nursery that contains an article on their cultivation: