In Australia Spring is the best time that you can personally help the bees in your garden.
Bees are having a tough time at the moment. In the farming areas around the world, bees are being affected by the chemicals used to "protect" crops. Some areas of the world are taking notice, for example the European Union have recently banned the use of many chemicals on farms.
Our bees keepers work hard not to put beehives in areas that have being sprayed. For example we have huge areas of Macadamia trees in our region which are sprayed once a year. Our beekeepers keep the bees away from the trees at this time to ensure they are not affected.
It is also becoming obvious that most towns and cities have lower numbers of honey bees which effects all of us in so many ways. If you want your fruit trees or veggies to be pollinated you need bees - preferably honey bees as they also produce copious amounts of honey, but native bees also are great pollinators. So why the reduction of bees in cities? Is it because we are so busy that we no longer grow flowers in our gardens? Or are we using too many chemicals to "protect" our veggies from bugs? I think both, but the good news is that we can all help.
How to help your local bees:
First, lets stop using chemicals in our gardens. The benefits of a chemical free veggie garden is obvious, a must for your health, and the bees will love you too!
BUT how do you protect your veggies? Simple, just by growing plants that attract "good bugs" that fight off/ eat the bad veggie- eating-bugs. Some call it companion planting (our Grandmas did it all the time) and easy a range of helpful plants are easily established.
Almost all good gardening shops will offer a range of plants that do the job, but there is also a great packet of seeds called "Good bug mix" which creates a wonderful range of plants to protect your garden. We feel that this is such an important thing to do that we give a packet of these seeds free to anyone who asks. Details are here on our website.
More bees in your garden:
Bonus, the same plants that protect your veggies also have the flowers that attract bees. Nectar rich, and colourful, perfect for every garden. Bees will return to your garden if you grow the flowers they need to gather nectar... It is that simple. If you currently don't have bees that means you don't have enough (or any?) flowers and trees in your area that they need.
Should I buy a beehive?
To state the obvious, no sense in buying a beehive if there is no flowers or trees nearby. So first action is to ensure there is enough flowering plants and trees to feed them.
If you have the flowers/ trees needed feed a hive of bees then also please consider the work involved in keeping bees. They do need maintenance, including checking for disease and mites. If there are problems you need the knowledge to fix them and work hard to help the bees survive.
If you are happy to learn and put in the work, Here is a good book to start. It includes all the basics of what you need to start, including all the equipment you need, the best location to have a hive and the general knowledge to keep you bees healthy.
What about native bees?
I love native bees. We have a hive in one of our rock walls and I can watch them all day! They are not, though, honey producers (of any volume). They are great for the garden and being stingless, they are family friendly!
Go here for all the information you need about Australian native bees. You can purchase native bee hives from a number of sources around Australia, just search "native bee sales".
What is the next step:
I hope you try to grow some of our seeds (or buy the plants) to bring the flowers back to your garden. You can then quit the use of any chemicals and see the bees return. I can not think of a more up-lifting place than a garden that has the hum of buzzing bees.
I looking forward to hearing about your success in helping your local bees.