25 April 2016

Save the Bees

Welcome to this month's Garden Share Collective hosted by Kate from Rosehips and Rhubarb and Krystie from A Fresh Legacy, this month the theme is SAVE

I had absolutely no idea what I was going to write about this month, and after tossing around a few ideas (saving seeds, saving produce, saving money) I finally decided to do a post on saving bees.

It shouldn't be news to any gardener that the world honey bee population is on the decline, climate change, loss of habitat, the use of pesticides containing neonicotinoids and the varroa mite are all playing a part in their decline. 

Photo by Bjorn Appel via commons.wikimedia.org

Australia is fortunate enough to be one of the few countries in the world to have a bee population that is still healthy. This doesn't mean that we should be complacent and not do everything we can to maintain the health of our bees, after all bees are responsible for almost one-third of the food we eat. 

What can you do

Stop using pesticides! 
I know it's easier and more convenient to buy pre-made pesticides, but there are more environmentally friendly alternatives that you can make at home that work just as well and do no harm to the environment. Google is a wonderful resource for finding natural alternatives to chemical pesticides, below are a few to start off with.

Aphids - A combination of dish washing liquid and water mixed together in a spray bottle will stop aphids in their tracks, alternatively you could try making your yard lady beetle friendly by growing the plants they love to feed on and providing a suitable habitat for them, their larvae will take care of the aphids for you.

Powdery mildew - 1 part milk and 7 parts water sprayed on the plant 3 days in a row should take care of the problem.

Slugs and snails - They love beer, so make some beer traps and place them wherever you see damage. I know some people who do a nightly patrol of their garden armed with a torch and a bucket of soapy water to drown the slugs and snails in.

Earwigs - Pour some oil (about 3mm) into an empty take away container (one with a lid) drill some holes above the level of the oil and place around the garden, check the traps every morning, empty them, and refill. Earwigs are nocturnal so they like to hide away during the day, place rolled up newspaper throughout the garden, the earwigs will hide inside, they can then be easily disposed of by feeding them to your chickens or drowning them in soapy water.

White Cabbage Butterfly - Covering your cabbages, broccoli, kale and other brassicas with fine netting (old net curtains work well and can be bought cheaply at op shops) as soon as they are planted will prevent the butterfly from laying her eggs on your precious seedlings. If you do see any cabbage butterfly caterpillars simply pick them off and feed them to your chooks, squash them or drown them in some soapy water.

Plant a bee friendly garden
Probably the easiest and prettiest way to help out the bees is to devote a part of your garden to planting out the flowers that bees love the most. Below is a list of flowers that will make your local bees very happy.

The start of my own bee friendly garden, it's not much to look at now but in a few weeks time it should be filled with nectar rich flowers.
Herbs -  Anise hysopp - basil- borage- catmint - chives - comfrey - coriander and parsley (both are also a favourite of the lady beetle) - rocket - rosemary - thyme.

Vegetables -  Capsicum, chillies, pumpkin, zucchini, watermelon, rockmelon, tomatoes and cucumber.  All of the nightshade family (tomatoes, chilli, capsicum and potatoes) are a real favourite of the native blue banded bee)
By letting  one or two of your best producers flower you will not only be providing food for the bees, you will also be gaining free seed (saving money) for next years planting. 
Broccoli, carrots (another one for the lady beetles), lettuce and celery are just a few that the bees will love. Celery seeds can also be used in cooking.
Flowers - Zinnia, marigold, calendula, allysum, lobellia, penstemon, larkspur, echinacea, sunflower, salvia, candytuft, and senecio "Vira Vira " are all good flowers to have growing in your garden. 

Australian natives such as bottle brush, flowering eucalyptus, melaleuca, and grevilleas are a good source of food too.  It is important to make sure that you plant autumn/winter flowering plants as well as there are not as many food sources available during this time. 

Provide water 
Providing a source of water is just as important as providing a source of food, especially in the hotter months of the year as bees can become dehydrated very quickly. You don't need to spend a lot of money, a shallow dish filled with pebbles provides a safe place for bees to have a drink without the risk of drowning.  

I used the bottom of a broken cake carrier (flipped over) to make a simple bee water dish. 

A 4 litre chicken water container, the tray filled with pebbles, makes an ideal water source for bees as it wouldn't need to be refilled every day and mosquitoes can't access the water to lay their eggs. Once again Google is a great source for information, as is Pinterest.


  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Pak Choi
  • Wombok cabbage
  • Peas (Snow peas, sugar snap and purple podded)
  • Parsley
  • Marigold
  • Penstemon
  • Larkspur


  • Chillies
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini (in a week or so)
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Basil
  • Watermelon (my one and only)

Things to do

  • Plant the garlic
  • Finishing sowing the peas (telephone, early crop massey and blue bantam)
  • Sow seeds of carrots, celery, coriander and lettuce
  • When they're big enough plant out
  • Spinach
  • Silverbeet
  • Growing in pots this year will be potatoes

So, that's it for this month's Garden Share Collective, I hope I have inspired you and given you a few ideas on how to keep our bees happy and healthy. I would love to hear if you decide to use any of these ideas. I will see you all again next month for another Garden Share Collective, next month's theme is LEAVES


  1. We tend to think of bees as being very robust and scary but in actual fact they are delicate little creatures.

    1. Yes, they are delicate and they're such fascinating little creatures.

  2. I really love this post. It is full of great info and tips. I am off to share it around my community

    1. Thanks Kyrstie, Happy to have inspired you.

  3. People do a lot of herbicide and insecticide spraying where we live, my neighbor just asked me if she could start spraying her walkway that sits right next to my garden. Which made me all cringy inside, but it did start us on a discussion about using vinegar instead.

    Mulching and netting plants are probably the best ways to suppress weeds and stop insect damage.

    1. I wish more people would realise that when they use chemicals in the garden they're not only killing the bad bugs they are also killing the good bugs. A little extra effort is all it takes to keep the garden free of weeds and insects.