Have you wondered why your garden seems to be more silent recently? It is not your imagination. The buzz is much quieter and the air is not so colourful. Even our windscreens are not full of dead bugs anymore – remember your windscreen a few years ago after a long drive in summer? Bees, bugs and butterflies face alarming decline worldwide. Considering that the majority of the food we eat relies on bees, bugs or butterflies as pollinators, it is a very scary thought.
How can we help?
The simplest way to attract bees and butterflies to your garden is by growing flowers rich in pollen and nectar. It is important to grow a wide range of plants that will provide a continuous flowering period, especially in spring and summer.
Plants for bees:
Tecoma spp., Euryops spp., Aloes, Sedum spp., Scabiosa spp., Proteas, Ericas, Carissa spp., Heliotropium
Plants for butterflies (they prefer red, blue and mauve flowers):
Selago spp., Heliotropium, Plectranthus spp., Hypoestes aristata, Asystasia, Buddleja, Thunbergia, Osteospermum.
Trees for butterflies:
Acacia spp., Kiggelaria (Wild Peach), Nuxia floribunda
Stop over-weeding. Let nature take its course and leave certain areas of your garden undisturbed. It’s easy to forget that many of the plants we see as weeds actually do a brilliant job at supporting wildlife. Dandelions and clover will provide pollen and nectar for bees and butterflies, and attract them back to your garden.
You can help attract bees to your garden by building a Bee Hotel. You can do this by leaving a few old hollow reeds or a wooden pole with holes in it. Remember to put your bee hotel in full sun. You can even provide these hotels by not fixing holes in your boundary walls. Some bees lay their eggs in these hollow cavities.
Avoid using pesticides and herbicides in your garden, as bees and butterflies are sensitive to poison.
Go for indigenous plants as these are usually first-choice for bees and butterflies.
Provide them with water. If you already have a birdbath filled with water (especially important in the drier months of the year) provide some pebbles or rocks as islands so that the bees and butterflies won’t drown.
In the summertime when these pollinators are at their busiest, help them by placing a small container or saucer filled with a sugary solution in your garden. You can prepare this by mixing equal parts of warm water and sugar. This will energise them again, and in wintertime it will warm them up. For butterflies, place a banana cut in half close to the birdbath for extra energy.
Bees and butterflies provide us with an invaluable service by pollinating the plants we grow. They are vital for a stable, healthy food supply. Just think about this: if you are wearing cotton that’s because the cotton plant your thread came from was pollinated. The health of our natural ecosystems is primarily linked to the health of our bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
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