Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Plants for Pollinators

On Tuesday 17th March we had out last monthly meeting for the year at The Railway Club in Grantham and one of our members Sarah Algar kindly gave us a talk on 'Plants for Pollinators'

It was a really interesting talk about what plants are available to buy and how many of them are actually no good as food for our Honey Bees and many other of our pollinating insects.

When I first became a beekeeper I did look into good plants to plant out near my hives and I was actually amazed to find out that there are quite a few plants that are not good food sources for them because it is either very difficult for them to get to the food or there just isn't any available for them on certain flowers.

It was a great talk and Sarah covered the whole year for us which was great as Honey Bees don't hibernate and when the weather is warm and dry enough will go out to forage for food no matter what month we are in.

Sarah very kindly e-mailed a list of some of the great plants and flowers that can be planted in our gardens to provide year round food our honey bees and other insects the gardens!!

Plants for Pollinators

Suggested Plants, by no means a definitive list, just some of my favourite, Sarah!

Early Spring

Chaenomeles japonica and speciosa (Quince, and single-flowered cultivars, also have edible fruit).

Crocus chrysanthus Crocus species with many cultivars – Nectar & Pollen from Mid Jan to late March.

Eranthus hyemalis (Winter Aconite) – ideal companion for snowdrops and crocuses, and excellent in the wild garden – Nectar and Pollen.

Galanthus nivalis (Snowdrop) – Nectar & Pollen in Jan, Feb, March and April.

Primula vulgaris (Primrose) – the native species, not the multi-coloured hybrid variety!

Pulmonaria (Lungwort)  Excellent ground cover plant for shade

Helleborus niger (Christmas Rose) and H. foetidus, H. argutifolius – Nectar & Pollen from December.

Lamium purpureum (Wild Deadnettle) – Nectar & Pollen in semi-shade. Can flower February or earlier. Is also a major bumblebee flower. They bore a hole for easier access to nectar, and honeybees can take advantage of this. Grows wild anywhere and should be left by gardeners.

Mahonia japonica – Nectar & Pollen Jan to March. Prolific producer! Can flower in shady places, large and spiky but flowers all winter into spring.

Prunus myrobalan syn. P. cerasifera (Cherry Plum) – Produces Pollen and Nectar for many types of bees, including honeybees. Flowers March-April.

Salix caprea (Goat Willow) and other salix spp. –- Nectar & Pollen Feb-March. Grows wild in abundance where there are uncut hedges.

Sarcococca hookeriana ( Winter Box) – Pollen and Nectar between November – December.

Ulex europaeus (Common Gorse) – (do not buy cultivars with double blooms) – Nectar & Pollen, on almost every day of the year! Grows wild on moorland.

Virburnum tinus (Laurustinus) – Pollen and Nectar, November – May.

The ‘June-Gap’ is a time of dearth of flowering plants between spring flowering plants and summer flowering plants, yet the colony is almost at a peak in numbers so actually need even more pollen and nectar. Here are some excellent bee plants for this time of dearth:

Allium schoenoprasum (Chives) mauve flowers June-July, and we can enjoy the leaves.

Borago officinalis (Borage) an annual, abundant in nectar.

Cornfield Annual Wildflowers (Cornflower, Common Knapweed, Corn Marigold, Wild Poppy, Corn Cockle, Corn Chamomile), depending on when these are sown, but most will peak in June. A mix of pollen and nectar.

Cytissus scoparius (Broom) Produces Nectar and Pollen in profusion for all Bees especially Honeybees. Flowers May, June.

Phacelia tanacetifolia (Phacelia, Green manure) but do let it flower at least until the end of June before incorporating.

Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion) the humble weed, – please learn to love it!

 Verbascum -Tall yellow biennial producing copious amounts of pollen which bees love.

Viburnum opulus (Guelder Rose) our native hedgerow tree, too often cut back unable to flower, so make sure every other year it is left uncut.

Summer months are times bee colony numbers are very high. Therefore bees do need to find copious amount of forage throughout the rest of the summer. It has been shown by research done by Professor Francis Ratnieks, a leading UK apiculturist, that July and August are the months in which bees are struggling to find nectar – and so we should all be looking for garden plants that are prolific nectar producers in the summer, such as:

Agastache foeniculum (Anise Hyssop) is a top nectar producing plant.

Borago officinalis (Borage) a top nectar and pollen producing annual.

Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender) a major honey plant, also its essential oil may contribute towards reducing Varroa destructor mites in honeybee colonies. Lavender stoechas, are often not very accessible to insects because the flowers have been modified by hybridisation

Origanum vulgare (Wild oregano or Marjoram) or the sub-species hirtum-Greek Oregano.

Calendula officinalis (Pot Marigold) a favourite with pest-controlling hoverflies

Digitalis purpurea (Foxglove) – thrive in semi shade and loved by bumblebees

Achillea (Yarrow)  Many varieties, attracts numerous insects and favoured by insect and seed eating birds, so leave seed heads in the autumn!

Ajuga reptans (Bugle) Good ground cover plant for partial shade

Stachys byzantine (syn. S.lanata) – (Rabbit’s ears) Good shade-tolerant ground cover with rich nectar.  Hairs on leaves used by the carder bee.

Valeriana officinalis (Valerian) An excellent native plant, really makes the bees placid with its hypnotic fragrance, as it does us with its traditional herbal remedy.

Penstemon  good for bursts of colour in mixed borders and popular with bees

Autumn-flowering plants are equally important, as it enables bees to build up fat and protein reserves to survive winter. Here are some excellent plants to help them build up these vital reserves:

Verbena bonariensis, loved by bees and butterflies, seeds freely

Aster novi-belgii (Michaelmas Daisy) Many varieties, rich nectar good for species preparing to overwinter.  Seeds provide food for birds.

Agastache foeniculum (Anise Hyssop) a wonder bee plant; one acre of this is said to support 100 hives, flowering July-September.

Dahlia – open flowers of species dahlias good source of nectar – avoid pompom and cactus forms!

Echinacae purpuria (Cone flower) Looks great in naturalistic planting

Rudbeckia fulgida – good yellow colour for the autumn border, great for bees and butterflies

Sedum spectabile (Ice plant) Large flat heads add structure to the border, popular with many insects

Calluna vulgaris (Heather/Ling Heather) Produces Nectar and Pollen for Honeybees, Bumblebees and many solitary bees which build their nests in areas of Heather. Flowers July, August, September, October, November.

Helianthus annuus (Sunflower) Good for bees and butterflies,, leave seedheads for birds.

Echium vulgare (Viper’s Bugloss) Produces Pollen and Nectar in abundance for many Bumblebees and Honeybees, Butterflies, flies. Flowering months: July, August, September, October.

Nepeta catari (Catmint) Produces Pollen and Nectar for many types of bees but particularly attractive to Honeybees. Flowers July-November.

Hardy geraniums – many varieties – really useful plants for many planting schemes, long flowering season and good source of nectar.

Ornamental grasses – many varieties, useful for mixed planting schemes, provide shelter for overwintering insects and food for some butterfly larvae and seeds provide food for birds

Recommended herbs

Thymes  (Thymus spp.) - all kinds popular with bees

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), providing early nectar to bumblebees and solitary bees. 

Culinary Sage (Salvia officinalis) – the common culinary sort with plain leaves seems to be the freest flowering and is very popular with long-tongued bumblebees,

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) – Another good bee plant.

Agastache–there are lots of Agastache species, many of them are excellent and will attract a huge range of insects.

Fennel –Foeniculum vulgare A perennial umbellifer, bearing flat heads of small yellowish flowers – especially good for hoverflies. The bronze-leaved form is just as good.

Angelica– Angelica archangelica Another umbellifer, a tall biennial – the greenish flowers are very attractive to insects. A number of other herbs and vegetables are umbellifers – parsley, celery, caraway, dill, carrots, parsnip etc. It is worth letting all of these produce a few flowers as they are good for insects.

Chives - allium schoenoprasum – a bee plant


Amelanchier lamarckii (Juneberry) - Spring flowers attractive to many pollinating insects, fruits eaten by many birds, beautiful autumn colour – a good “all-rounder”

Buddleia davidii – Butterfly bush – the name says it all, will grow almost anywhere.

Cornus sangiunea (Dogwood) – Flowers popular with insects, fantastic winter stem colour for the winter garden.

Hebe – many varieties.  Useful foliage plant, flowers popular with bees and butterflies

Ribes sanguineum (Flowering currant) Popular nectar plant.  Flowers used as in indicator for beekeepers that it is warm enough to inspect hives.  Beware the unpleasant scent of cat pee!

Skimmia japonica – flowers and berries and good evergreen cover.

Syringa vulgaris (Lilac) – Flowers for insects and seeds for birds

Viburnum x bodnantense (Winter flowering viburnum)  Good early source of nectar


If you have room in your garden, consider planting a fruit tree (if you only plant one make sure it is either self-fertile or there is a suitable pollinator nearby), or choose a native tree such as:  Sorbus aria (Whitebeam), Cratageus monogyna (Hawthorn), Sorbus aucuparia (Rowan), Ilex aquifolium (Holly), Tilia cordata (Small leaved lime), Viburnum lantana (Wayfaring tree), Prunus cerasifera (Cherry plum), Betula pendula (Silver birch).


Further reading

How to Create a Wildlife Garden – Christine and Michael Lavelle – Lorenz Books

The Pollinator Garden www.foxleas.com

Sarah Raven’s catalogue has many wonderful pollinator –friendly plants and is a useful source of inspiration www.sarahraven.com

Sunday, 29 March 2015

A World Without Bees.... Book Review.

So keeping up with the book reviews the next book I would like to talk about is.....

A World Without Bees by Allison Benjamin and Brian McCallum
A World Without Bees by
Allison Benjamin and Brian McCallum
This is not a book that will help you if you are a beekeeper but it does have a lot of facts in it about beekeepers and what they have done and tried to do the world over and how this has had an effect on the bees of our world.

Obviously bees are a very important part of life as they are the highest pollinators in the insect world and so without them we could be in trouble with food production.

Whilst a very good read it is also very in depth and probably not one for night-time reading but full of fascinating and often very sobering facts about what we as a race are subjecting our planet and wildlife too.

although there are a lot of facts and figures in this book and it is very in depth I found it easy to keep up with and very interesting.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Leslie Thorne Award 2015.

The Leslie Thorne award is presented annually to the most improved young beekeeper within the county of Lincolnshire.

At the last AGM of Lincolnshire Beekeepers Association on March 14th 2015 the Leslie Thorne Award was given to Grantham Districts only junior member Annabel McCabe.

Annabel with Gill Smith and Jez Jones.
Annabel being presented her award by Gill Smith
(relative of Leslie Thorne) And Grantham Districts
Chairman, Jez Jones.
Annabel is 13 years old and got interested in bee-keeping when I first got some hives on our local allotments where she spent a lot of time working with her Mum on there own allotment. This interest triggered the first ever Junior attending the beginners course at Grantham in 2014 and this then led to Annabel becoming our first Junior member.

Annabel has spent time over the last year reading and taking photos of bees as well as attending the groups local open apiaries and attending inspections with myself.

Annabel has shown great interest and promise as a new bee-keeper and wasn't fazed at all after receiving her first sting!!

minature bee hive with name plaques of leslie thorne winners.
Miniature Beehive on display at Thornes
with name/date plaques of the winners.
Thornes have made a miniature beehive which plaques have been put on of all the past winners so be sure to check it out next time you are over at Thornes!!

Annabel was also given a bee hive as a prize for winning the Leslie Thorne awards by the 'Thorne' family.

Leslie Thorne award prize
Annabel's flat pack hive complete with two supers,
frames and wired foundation.
Along with the hive Annabel will receive her own colony of bees which Grantham District will provide for her and mentoring for a year from an experienced bee keeper. Annabel has chosen Jez the chairman of Grantham District Beekeepers to be her mentor and is going to put her hive on her Mum's allotment.

Along with the above mentioned activities Annabel also participated in the Bee Health day last Spring and attended an inspection with the bee inspector after a case of E.F.B. was reported in Grantham last year.

We are all very proud of Annabel's achievements and will give her full support as a group whilst she embarks on this newest adventure!!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Introduction to Beekeeping Course, 2015

Ever fancied being a beekeeper or learning more about bees, their habitats and how you could help out more??

If so then sign up for our course. I went on it a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it and met some great people.

Introduction to Beekeeping Course, Grantham.
Introduction to Beekeeping Course, Grantham.
You learn some really useful things and even if you already have bees but want to learn a little more then it is a great course to attend.

There are also practical hands on sessions where you get to try frame building and also go to visit some live bee hives.

Minors are welcome as long as they are accompanied by a responsible adult.

If you want any more information then don't hesitate to get in touch

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Beekeeping by David Cramp......Book Review

Well it's been a while since I posted here and I have been thinking about how best to post on the Grantham District blog and what sort of content to include. Essentially it obviously needs to be about bees, beekeeping, pollinating insects and how best to help them.

With this in mind I thought about the visitors we may have to the site and what sort of information they may want to gain from the blog and if they would want to lean more so this bought me round to book reviews. What better way to learn than through reading??

With this in mind I bring you my first book review.


Beekeeping By David Cramp.

A step by step Guide.

Beekeeping, a step by step guide.
Beekeeping, a step by step guide.
This is the book I started out with way back before I took the introductory course in 2013. I have found this book invaluable throughout the course in finding out information for homework which was set and then as a reference since I embarked on the great adventure that is keeping bees.

It is set out into 8 simple chapters which cover everything from the origins of bees, understanding them, starting beekeeping, and yearly calendar. Then also goes on to tell you how to harvest your honey, give info on problems and diseases, what is best for a 'bee' garden...and how you can take your beekeeping further.

All this is backed up with wonderful full colour photos so you really do know what to look out for in your hive. Below are some randomly selected pictures out of the book.

What are these bees doing and why does one have a red spot??
What are these bees doing and why does one have a red spot??
bee larvae in cell
bee larvae in cell

how old do you think these bees eggs are??
how old do you think these bees eggs are??

what is on this bee larvae
what is on this bee larvae??
 If you would like to answer these questions and more then this is a great book for you whether you are thinking about becoming a beekeeper or would just like to understand the bee and it's trials and tribulations more

step by step picture guide to hive and frame building.
step by step picture guide to hive and frame building.
 There is even a step by step picture guide to how to build your hive and frames.  So if you really would like to explore further into the world of bees then this is a great book for both children and adults alike.

Of course there are many more books out there and I will be looking at another for you soon and please remember this review is only personal opinion.