Bumblebees won’t produce honey but they will pollinate your plants and they are in decline, one British sub-species being declared extinct in 1999. Part of the reason that their numbers are dwindling is thought to be because most of the species have long tongues and like tubular flowers such as vetches, thistles and knapweed – all found in traditional hay meadows – which are becoming increasingly rare.
They are distinguished from honey bees by their greater size and much louder buzz.
Bumblebees nest in burrows and you can provide a habitat for them by piling soil into a bank in a sunny position. If your soil isn’t free-draining, mix in some sand or gravel. Keep some of the bank free from weeds and other vegetation to allow the bees easy access. Some species live in wood, so adding a few logs with holes drilled in them will offer more than one type of home.
Plants for bees
- Bats in the Belfry (Campanula trachelium)
- Devil’s bit scabious (Succisa pratensis)
- Field scabious (Knautia arvnsis)
- Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
- Fleabane (Pulicaria dysentarica)
- Giant bellflower (Campanula latifolia)
- Gypsywort (Lycopus europaeus)
- Heather (Calluna vulgaris)
- Hemp agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinnum)
- Marsh marigold (Stachys palustris)
- Marsh woundwort (Strachys palustre)
- Oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)
- Primrose (Primula vulgaris)
- Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
- Musk mallow (Malva moshata)
- Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
- Snakes Head Fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris)
- St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
- Selfhead (Prunella vulgaris)
- Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris)
- White campion (Silene alba)
- Wild marjoram (Origanum vulgare)
- Water mint (Mentha aquatica)
- Wild thyme (Thymus praecox)
- Wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa)
Unfortunately, they also love Himalayan Balsam, which is an invasive species. According to the Manchester Bee Society, bumblebees will choose Himalayan Balsam in preference to any other flower.
Reproduced with permission of North West Parks Friends Forum