Bee aware and Bee friendly

Bees are important pollinators you want to bring to your backyard, and are an essential ingredient to any successful vege garden!

With bee population numbers dwindling all over the country, gardeners are being urged to think carefully about encouraging bees back into the garden by planting flowers and plants which provide food and shelter for them.

Honey bees and bumble bees are the two most prominent kinds in New Zealand gardens. Bees feed on the nectar produced by flowers, and while they are busy extracting the nectar, pollen sticks to their legs or bodies and rubs off onto other flowers as the bees move from one flower to another, resulting in fertilisation. This is a vital process to ensure fruit, crops and seeds are produced.

It’s particularly important for some crops such as tomatoes, beans and cucurbits (cucumber, pumpkins, watermelon) to have the help of bees for pollination. Lack of bees is a common reason for crop failure among these crops.

What to plant to encourage bees

Attract beneficial bees into your garden to aid pollination of your crops with sweet smelling flowers. Combine bee-friendly flowers into your planting by planting amongst crops in your vege garden.

The following are all great options:

  • Annual flowers: calendula, marigold, sunflowers, poppies, cosmos, hollyhocks, fox gloves, echium, clover, nasturtiums.
  • Perennials: comfrey, dahlias, echinacea, geraniums, aquilegia, gladiolus.
  • Shrubs: Californian lilac, buddleia, echium.
  • Climbers: honeysuckle, clematis.
  • Fruit and vegetables: blackberry, cucumbers, pumpkin, courgette.
  • Herbs: bee balm, borage, coriander, rosemary, thyme.

Bees like flowers that are single with open, simple flat shapes or clusters of tiny flowers, rather than ruffled frilly double flowers. These are the easiest for bees to get in to feed.

To provide a water souce for the bees in your garden, place pebbles in a bird bath, making it shallow enough for them to land and drink the water.

Planting for the Bees

Get your bee friendly plants off to the best start with Tui Flower Mix, a high quality planting mix containing the right blend of nutrients to provide sustained flowering throughout the season. We’ve added Acadian seaweed to this mix, for extra-strong healthy plants and potassium to maximise flower production. Use in garden beds, pots, containers and hanging baskets, and watch your plants reach their flowering potential before your eyes, bringing bees into your backyard!

Bees for hire

In some areas, local bee keepers hire out hives and offer classes to those that are interested in bees. Contact the National Bee Keepers association to find local contacts www.nba.org.nz.

Reduce the risk of pests and diseases by keeping plants well watered and well fertilised, to maintain a strong plant. Insects are less likely to attack if plants are healthy.

This article is supplied in part by Rachel Vogan.

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Bee aware and Bee friendly Comments

  • It's sad to hear of the decline in bees. Not in my garden though! We have a huge wedding day rose which spans several metres between our house and garage creating a gorgeous waterfall effect when blooming. Currently it is in full flower and the hum of bees fills the air. There is every type of bee - from big fluffy fat ones to the more zippy slender type. Every morning the rose is swarming with activity and it is impossible to estimate how many visitors are present. I take great delight in knowing these bees then go off around the rest of my garden and the neighbourhood spreading their pollen. The fragrance throughout the house of the rose is an added bonus!

    Jan McKay

  • I have a nest of Bees in my Garden shed and underneath the shed how can i get rid of them as my Partner is allergic to them if he get stung by them it take a day to get into his system and then he ends up in hospital and i don't want this to happen is there any one that you know of that i could get in touch with them. I don't want them killed as they are a godsend to the garden. Can you help me please

    Margaret Medley

  • Hi Margaret - we would suggest contacting the National Bee Keepers association: www.nba.org.nz to see if they can help. Thanks Gemma (Tui Team)

    gemma

  • Hi Jan, that sounds fantastic, exactly what we need to help the bee population grow! - Gemma (Tui Team)

    gemma

  • I have saved 4 bees just lately from drowning in my water bucket i just put my finger out for them to hold on to and put them in a bush to dry what satisfaction i get from saving just a few

    lynne

    • Hi Lynne, if you regularly have bees in your water bucket, it may be the only source of water locally and is very important to the bees. If you float a thin washing-up sponge on the surface, the bees will have something to stand on while they drink. We have hives in our garden and quite often see a ring of bees around the edge of the bird bath. Kind regards, Anthony

      Anthony Curl

  • Great work Lynne - every little bit helps! - Gemma (Tui Team)

    gemma

  • Thanks for publishing this article, yes indeed the bees need help to survive now. We are beekeepers from Waitakere in Auckland and we love our bees. You never stop learning about them. Here is an article I wrote about how to get started:- http://kiwimana.co.nz/beekeeping-101/ Thanks...Gary kiwimana

    Gary Fawcett

  • Thanks Gary, and thanks for sharing your guide to bee-keeping, very informative. Thanks, Gemma (Tui Team)

    gemma

  • Where can I find a bee friendly (and butterfly friendly) buddleia? It'd be a great addition to my garden.

    Veronica

  • Hi Veronica, some Buddleias are listed as pest plants and therefore can’t be found for sale in the shops. They do root exceptionally easily from cuttings, and some plants do appear in the shops from about October onwards (try your local garden centre). If you want to give cuttings a try and need some more info, check out our cuttings guide: http://www.tuigarden.co.nz/howtoguide/cuttings-grow-guide Other plants you could try for butterflies especially, are any of the following - Swan Plants, Scabious, Cornflower, Tithonia, Tweedia, Coreopsis. - Gemma (Tui Team)

    gemma

  • I planted alyssum at the corners of my raised vegetable garden and now the sweet smelling white flowers draping over the sides are alive with bees.

    Christine

  • I plant Lavender and Borage : )

    R Payne

  • The bees must love your garden! Gemma (Tui Team)

    gemma

  • Hi we have planted 14 fruit trees but never seen any bees at the flowers so no fruit. We purchased a hive which has pollinated the apple 5rees but we have a problem now with brown beetles eating all the leaves. Is the a bee friendly spray to control them

    Stew

  • Hi Stew, this beetle is a NZ native and generally doesn’t do a lot of damage, they are around from October to January. Sometimes their populations get large and they can strip leaves off trees. By the time you realise they are there and spray the beetles, they will have moved on as they come in, feed on the trees and disappear as quickly as they arrive. You could try Tui Insect Control for Fruit & Veges on juvenile beetles but the adult beetle has a hard shield and so is not controlled with this product. Spraying them with a hose also helps move them on quickly. Thanks, Jenna - Tui Team

    jenna

  • Hi, I share rental property with 3 friends and we have a small garden area that is covered with very tall weeds as we rarely have the time to look after it. Is there a bee friendly plant you would recommend that is very low maintenance and spreads over a lot of ground easily that you would recommend? Cheers.

    Emma

  • Hi Emma, great question. Try planting borage, its super easy to grow. Simply scatter seeds and walk away, other good ones are calendula and phacelia. Clear the area first of weeds, rake over the soil and scatter your seeds, within a few weeks plants will pop up. Enjoy! - Tui Team.

    jenna

  • I have a host a hive in my garden and the fruit on all my trees has trebled its amazing I will host again I love it

    jenny