European honey bees pollinate a third of our food crops, making a huge contribution to our food supply chain, our economy and the broader ecosystem, so the more we can help them do their thing, the better off everyone is.
European honey bees will feast on a range of flowering plants but they do have preferences.
Like humans, bees love herbs. And they’re great to plant as they’re handy in the kitchen and around the house too.
And there are many beautiful flowering shrubs and trees you can plant which will have nearby bees wiggle-dancing with joy. Bees are also attracted to many food plants.
The great thing about planting some citrus, some strawberries or a passionfruit vine is the symbiotic benefit. The bees get their pollen and nectar and the plants produce bigger, healthier, better-formed fruit in greater abundance.
The thyme is right
Bees looooove thyme. It’s a one-stop shop for foragers, providing high yields of both pollen and nectar.
Give it good drainage, and it will prosper in most climates. You can even use it on paths and as a lawn plant. It’s also a delicious culinary herb. Popular throughout the Mediterranean because it makes for super-yummy honey, neighbouring beekeepers will love you if you plant this.
Bees love blue and violet flowers best, especially the many species of lavender you can grow at home. Like thyme, it produces an abundance of both pollen and nectar.
A beautiful plant to grow, you can use sprigs to scent your home and nothing’s nicer than being downwind from a lavender bush on a sweet, breezy summer day.
Sage costs a fortune at the shops, so planting plenty of it in your yard or on your balcony is fantastic for the home cook. It also happens to produce flowers that are among the honey bee’s very favourites.
They go crazy for it and when they find some will do a dance so the rest of the colony knows where the party is. Beekeeping is a fantastic hobby, but it is a labour of love and not for everybody. And that’s OK. There are things anyone can do to help bees do their important work including planting flowering plants and installing pollinator hotels.
While European honey bees are top notch pollinators, it’s worth thinking about the beautiful little stingless natives too.
In Australia we have more than 1,500 species of native bees. Not surprisingly they prefer native plants. In fact, European honey bees pollinate just 5 percent of native plants, but collect 90 percent of the available nectar and pollen.
We've also created this downloadable PDF on bee-friendly gardening: