Bees provide significant benefits to us, including pollination of our fruit and vegetable plants. Honeybees make honey which is a delicacy in any kitchen. In Britain, we have around 270 species of bees that also are responsible for the pollination of many plants. Unlike honeybees, the majority of native bees do not live in colonies. Instead, most of them construct solitary nests below ground in burrows or above ground in cavities. Unfortunately, both native and introduced honeybees are facing significant declines in their population due to loss of habitat, climate change, diseases and mites, excessive pesticide use or misuse and pollution.

We need to take steps in our communities to help bees and other pollinators’ populations thrive in our urban environments. Plant a wide variety of trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals with overlapping and sequential blooming periods throughout the season. Flowers that bees are attracted to include bright white, yellow, blue and purple with a fresh, mild to sweet fragrance. Bees like tubular to shallow flowers or flowers with landing platforms. Flowers that produce nectar or have slightly scented, sticky pollen attract bees. In particular, trees can provide a good source of pollen early in spring right when bees are laying their eggs and the resulting larvae use it for their development. Throughout the rest of the growing season, adult bees use nectar from flowers as a carbohydrate source to continue their reproduction and pollination of plants. Besides a continuous food source, bees also require water, adequate nesting habitat and an adequate amount of sunny, open space.

When bees are pollinating flowers, reduce or avoid the use of pesticides, especially broad-spectrum insecticides. Even organic pesticides can be highly toxic to bees and other pollinators. Avoid spraying trees during bloom time, especially when lindens and fruit trees are in bloom as these trees are some of their favorite choices for food.