Bee-friendly - a garden for insects
1 Apr 2020
At last year's spoga+gafa the company 'zu Jeddeloh Pflanzen' presented its brand "Bee Happy" – Photo: zu Jeddeloh
The discussions of the last years on insect and bee protection are now starting to have an impact: The theme biodiversity is playing an important role for more and more garden owners also in one's own green space.
Documentations like "More than Honey" (2012), but also novels like "The story of the bees" (2018) startled us. On the one hand, they showed us which significance these insects have for the ecosystems, on the other hand how decisive they also are for the production of our foodstuffs. Because if bees and co. didn't pollinate the blossoms of the fruit trees, our supermarkets would be empty, there would be no fruit. In places where bees have already died out, i.e. in parts of Japan or China, people have had to pollinate fruit plantations by hand - with a brush, blossom for blossom.
Insects dying: Dramatic recline
In the mid-2000s, beekeepers worldwide reported massive losses among the honeybee colonies. The reasons for the bees dying have not been completely clarified yet. The infestation with the varroa mite is seen to be one reason in the United States, Germany and Switzerland. In addition to this, the large-scale implementation of pesticides as well as the agricultural monocultures that are low in nutrients are having a huge impact on the insects. These factors have at the same time led to an enormous decline in the number of species of wild bees. Around 560 wild species live in Germany - more than half of which are currently endangered species.
Wild bee: Anthidium manicatum – Photo: Frank Hecker / Ulmers Wildbienenwelt
Synonym for species protection
The Bavarian referendum "Save the bees" demonstrated impressively in 2019 how much the fate of the insects moves many people. It recorded the highest citizen participation in the history of the federal state and led to points such as an increase in ecological farming, more efficiently protected bank edge strips and a biotope network comprising of blooming meadows becoming legally anchored. Here and for many further campaigns the bee symbolises the general protection of small creatures, because their overall numbers and the diversity of the species are decreasing significantly. Associations from the green industry have thus been asserting themselves for the protection of the insects for some time already. For example, the Retailers’ Association for Building, Home Improvement and Gardens e.V. (BHB), the Garden Industry Association e.V. (IVG), the Association of German Garden Centres e.V. (VDG) and the Central Horticultural Association e.V. (ZVG) have been supporting the "Feed bees!" initiative of the Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture (BMEL) for several years. The aim is to inform the citizens how private gardens have to be designed so that they offer a habitat and nutrition for wild and honey bees, butterflies and other insects.
Wild bee: Andrena fulva – Photo: Frank Hecker / Ulmers Wildbienenwelt
More Biodiversity: Bee meadows in the garden
If one were to line up all of the private gardens in Germany, the space covered would span much further than all of the nature reserves in this country put together. This makes it clear how important the garden owners' commitment for species protection is.
People, who want to make a contribution, should above all make sure that their own plot of land is as green and as diversely planted as possible and that there are lots of different blooming plants and shrubs. Because these forms the nutritional basis of bees and co. Lavender, daisies, bellflowers or sunflowers for example are very suitable. However, it is important to know that not all blossoms offer the insects pollen and nectar. In the case of double flowers, they normally seek in vain. This is why many garden centres and nurseries label their products with special logos in the meantime, which enable the customer to recognise immediately which are particularly bee-friendly. For example, at last year's spoga+gafa the company 'zu Jeddeloh Pflanzen' presented its brand "Bee Happy", which comprises of the corresponding shrubs.
The garden owner should also keep the beneficial insects in mind when implementing pesticides. For example, the company Neudorff supplies bee-friendly pesticides. Generally, the following applies: If a substance is not bee-friendly, the consumer will find the corresponding reference on the packet.
Many insecticides and pesticides carry the imprint "Not dangerous for bees". – Photo: Neudorff
Wild bees: Habitat and refuge
The sand steppe bees are only around four millimetres long and are thus the smallest wild bees in Germany. Other species can be up to three centimetres in size. Incidentally, the bumblebee also falls under the category of wild bees. In contrast to honeybees, most of these wild species don't live in large colonies together, but are indeed loners. This is why they are referred to as solitary or hermit bees. Each species has its own particular demands. For anyone, who would like to learn more about the fascinating insects, the Eugen Ulmer publishing company provides an interesting digital offer on the theme. A wealth of interesting knowledge about the pollinators can be found at www.wildbienenwelt.de . For example, that 75 percent of all species of wild bees’ nest in the ground. The rest of them seek stalks of plants or use hollows in wood. So-called insect hotels are offered in the garden centres as nesting aids and hiding spots for these species. But many environmental organisations or DIY specialised dealers also provide building instructions and tips, which show how garden owners can build such a refuge out of natural materials themselves.
Wild bee: Megachile lapponica – Photo: Frank Hecker / Ulmers Wildbienenwelt
A beehive in the garden
The threat to the bees and the manifold coverage on this theme has aroused the interest of many people in beekeeping. More and more garden owners also in the cities have their own beehive. Since 2010, the number of beekeepers in Germany is constantly rising: There are currently 130,000. Together they keep around 870,000 honeybee colonies. Caring for the insects is above all a leisure activity for around 95 percent of the German beekeepers. Garden owners, who are interested in this hobby, can be trained in the subject at numerous beekeeping clubs. Torsten Ellmann, President of the German Beekeeping Association e.V., recommends that beginners initially look for a beekeeper mentor, who they can accompany: "Anyone, who wants to become a leisure time beekeeper, should first of all accompany an experienced beekeeper for a year so that he sees everything that can be done and that has to be done throughout the year. And then decide whether he wants to actually keep bees himself."