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Don’t Step on a Bee Day 2020: how you can make your garden bee-friendly

National day to encourage nurturing nature

Geraldine Gardner

Geraldine Gardner


01635 886684

Don’t Step on a Bee Day 2020: how you can make your garden bee-friendly

FRIDAY, July 10 is Don’t Step on a Bee Day and people are being encouraged to grow bee-friendly plants in their garden to save them from extinction.

In the UK 35 species of bees are under threat of extinction. This is especially true in urban areas, where every time a new building development is constructed on green space another habitat is irreversibly lost. Land use has changed drastically in the last few decades - according to environmental group Plantlife 97% of wildflower meadows have been destroyed over the last 100 years.

One of the positive impacts of lockdown in the UK is that we've all spent more time on our gardens and bees have definitely benefited.

Bees play a pivotal role as go-betweens in nature’s life cycle, pollinating the plants we eat and encouraging our environment to naturally flourish. Don’t Step on a Bee Day is a reminder of what can be done at home as individuals or as a family to become more bee-friendly.

How you can help bees by urban-planting
The more natural plant life in towns and cities, the better urban bee populations will fare – even if you’ve only got a small garden, a balcony, a patio or a tiny pot on the window ledge you can make a real difference.

The best flowers you can plant for bees include: purple flowers like lavender, buddleja and catmint, because bees can see purple more clearly than other colours; tubular-shaped flowers like foxgloves and snapdragons; herbs like thyme and rosemary; honeysuckle and clematis in the winter; bluebells, rhododendrons and forget-me-nots in the spring; delphiniums, foxgloves and hollyhocks in early summer; dahlias, cornflowers and ivy in late summer.

You can also help bees by planting certain fruits and vegetables like apples, pears, onions, peas, beans, courgettes and cucumbers.

How to identify and help a struggling bee
Bees are prone to cooling, a sudden shower or cold wind can catch them off guard. They normally will crawl to cover to ‘wait out’ the hazard, returning to their task after a short rest. 

Wildlife expert at Ark Wildlife Sean McMenemy says: “It is always better to wait than intervene. Bees often take a rest or break and an inactive bee does not mean it is in difficulty. If a bee remains in the same place for longer than 30-45 minutes, it is likely to need help.

“Honey, brown sugar and artificial sweeteners should be avoided and never offered to bees. Commercially available honey may carry pathogens that could infect bees if it were fed to them.”

  • Is it in imminent danger ie could it get stepped on or hit? If so, safely move it to a quieter spot and leave it to rest.
  • Is it in the rain? Move it to a sheltered spot.
  • Is it on the underside of a flower or leaf? It’s likely to be taking a rest, so leave it in peace but come back in 30 minutes or so.
  • If it’s been inactive for 35-45 minutes it may need help. Ideally move it on to nectar rich flowers in a sunny spot. Natural food and warmth is the best thing for it.
  • If no sun / food is available you can move it to a warm spot (ideally outdoors, try to avoid taking them in houses) and offer it a little white sugar and water solution, just a few drops in front of it. Do not risk it falling in the solution as this may harm it.

What to do if a bee lands on you
Bees are non-aggressive unless threatened, so it’s important to stay calm. If it lands on your body or flat clothing, slowly walk to a sunny spot where you can place it in full sun on a plant, fence or table. 

If it lands on woolly clothes it may get tangled, so if this happens, just tuck a bit of paper or a leaf under its bottom. Bees are quite compliant with such actions and it then can’t sting you if it gets distressed. You can help by sliding the paper toward its head as it untangles each leg.

How to help bees find a home
Even with a small outside space you can help create a home for bees, either by buying a ready-made cavity-nesting bee habitat or building one yourself using a wooden box, bamboo canes and hollow plant stems. 

Ensuring that your outdoor space has shady patches where bees can stay cool, and access to a water source, can also make a real difference. 

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