Creating a Habitat for Bumblebees

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Bumblebees are one of the biggest pollinators we have in the UK, but their numbers have been declining in recent years due mostly to changes in farmland.

bumblebee on teasel flower

Wild flowers like this teasel are vital for the survival of bumblebee species

Two species of the UK’s bumblebees have become extinct since the 1940s. If the decline of these insects in the UK continues, it could be devastating for UK farmers and affect as much as £400 million of UK GDP.

Reversing the trend for bumblebee decline


Fortunately, it’s not too late to reverse this trend and creating environment in which bumblebees can thrive is easy to do in your own back garden. If enough of us made small changes to our gardens, this could easily abate the decline of bumblebee populations.


The disappearance of wildflower meadows for our countryside is largely responsible for the contraction of the bumblebee population, with such meadows covering 97% less of the British Isles than they did 80 years ago. Since bumblebees’ diets consist entirely of flowers, it’s unsurprising that planting a range of wildflowers in your garden is a great way of encouraging bumblebees.

grass path mown through a wildflower meadow

A wildflower garden is not only beautiful, it's  incredibly low maintenance.
In this garden, Hall Landscaping and Design have used Meadowmat to create a peaceful haven


The simple addition of a few square metres of wildflowers at the end of your garden can make the world of difference to a local colony. Because wild flower turf contains a number of different species which flower throughout the period in which bumblebees are most active and require the most food (from spring to late summer), there are few better means of attracting them. The fastest and easiest way of adding wildflowers to a section of garden is by installing ready-made wild flower turf such as MeadowMat.

 

Build a bumblebee nest using bits and pieces from your garden shed


The most committed and adventurous among us can also encourage bumblebees to site a nest in our gardens. Different species of bee prefer different nesting sites, from old rodent holes in the ground to bird boxes.

wooden nesting box for bumblebees

A bumblebee nesting box made from bits of wood found in the shed

solitary bee nesting box with living sedum roof

This nest box is more suitable for solitary bees and was made by CouCou garden design for their 2015 Hampton Court show garden.  I love the living green roof.

One can buy readymade kits to create a nesting site, but if you’d rather avoid the expense, an upturned flowerpot, partially buried and filled with nesting material such as straw, dried grass and moss with a small piece of partially buried hosepipe to provide access can be equally effective.

There’s no perfect way of ensuring a colony chooses to nest in your garden, but having suitable habitats in March when queens are seeking out a nesting site and ensuring that there are plenty of flowers for the bees to feed on are both essential.


Of course, no one individual is going to be able to stop the declining bumblebee populations, but our own small contributions will add up to help protect one of Britain’s favourite insects.