How to Entice Pollinators into Your Garden

Saving the bees is hugely important as 90% of all plants require pollinator insects to exist.

Most pollination is carried out by bees, helped by other insects like hoverflies, butterflies and moths. In order to survive, pollinators need flowers that produce lots of nectar (for energy) and pollen (for protein). Bees feed their young exclusively on pollen, so are entirely focused on collecting if from flowers to bring back to their nest. In Ireland we have 98 different types of bees but unfortunately, one third are currently threatened with extinction.

How can you help the bees in your garden?

Gardens need to provide bees with food in the form of flowers, shelter for nesting and safety from chemicals. The National Biodiversity Data Centre has a great website that explains the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, and it has a guide to making your garden pollinator-friendly. Aim to have 3-5 different types of plants flowering in your garden each season to ensure a constant source of food for pollinators. If you always have something flowering in your garden to attract and feed pollinators, these insects will help your pollinator-dependent fruits and vegetables.

There are a huge variety of garden plants to choose from that are colourful, attractive, and can provide pollinators with the food they need.

Image by Paula Murray, Bloom Photography Competition 2019

What plants to choose?

Plant single instead of double flowered varieties: double flowered varieties provide almost no nectar and pollen for pollinators. Perennials plants are generally better sources of pollen and nectar. When choosing plants to buy at a garden centre, see if you spot any bees hovering around, and you will quickly realise what flowers pollinators visit most. Some flowering trees, plants and shrubs to look out for include Deutzia; Rock Rose; Viburnum; Hawthorn; Philadelphus; Ribes; Willow; Foxglove; Campanula; Cosmos and Snapdragons.

If you have little outdoor space, there are many pollinator friendly herbs and plants that grow well in pots or window boxes. Below are examples of pollinator friendly herbs and perennials that do well in containers:

  • Perennials:
    • Aubrieta
    • Wallflower
    • Bellflower
    • Trailing Verbena
  • Herbs:
    • Borage
    • Chives
    • Lavender
    • Rosemary
    • Sage
    • Thyme

Let the weeds grow!

It’s also advisable to relax your maintenance regimes and allow some wildness into the garden. This could be music to some people’s ears – especially if you’re looking at a garden full of weeds and feel like a poor gardener for not removing them. Remember, weeds have a function, for example the nettle is the host for butterflies and dandelions provide pollen.  Allow the dandelions to grow on your lawn and don’t be afraid to allow areas of long grass, which is ideal for bumblebee nesting.

Also consider reducing or eliminating the spraying of chemicals which disturbs your garden’s ecosystem. If you need to remove weeds from your patio or beds, use a hoe, rather than spraying with weed-killer – it’s also quicker.

To stay up to date with Bloom At Home, follow @BordBiaBloom on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and keep an eye on our website for updates.