Help nature

Mysterious and little-known organisms live within reach of where you sit. Splendour awaits in minute proportions.

E. O. Wilson

You can help

Just a few tips and ideas for how you can help….

Gardening for insects

Gardens are at the heart of urban biodiversity. If you do have a garden, take up those tiles or gravel and grow more plants! Try and leave leaf litter and wild areas as much as possible. Allow a lawn to have ‘weeds’ such as dandelions, daisies and clover, and allow them to flower rather than mowing them all the time.

Don’t use any kind of pesticide – often the very creatures you kill (such as wasps or centipedes) are the natural predators of the pests that are bothering you.

You don’t have to have a big garden to make a big difference! Planting pollinator-friendly plants in your window-box, balcony or terrace helps provide green corridors and vital pit stops for hungry bees! Many herbs, such as oregano, chives and rosemary are very popular with pollinators, as well as providing you with fresh herbs.

Bee-friendly plants

Here is list of the top 10 bee-friendly plants:

  • Bush vetch – Vicea sepium
  • Catmint – Nepeta raceuna
  • Plume thistle -Symphytum officinale
  • Dahlia Bishop of Llandaff
  • Field scabious – Knautia arvensis
  • Meadow cranesbill – Geranium pratense
  • Giant hyssop – Agastache foeniculum
  • Lavender – Lavendula x intermedia
  • Lungwort – Pulmonaria
  • Marjoram – Origanum vulgare
  • Pussy willow – Salix caprea
  • Sicilian honey garlic – Allium Sicilium
  • Thyme – Thymus polystichus
  • Vipers bugloss – Echium vulgare

Many other flowers are great for insects, of course – as a rule of thumb, think native species, single rather than double flowers, and different flowering times so that there is food available from March through to October.

Bee hotels

Bee hotels are very popular, but provide extra habitat primarily for mason bees, who nest in horizontal holes. Solitary bees nest in a variety of habitats, depending on the species. Crumbling walls, old wood piles, undisturbed ground and sandy banks can all be great, so most of all don’t be too tidy!

In our small garden we have, among others, tawny mining bees in holes on the lawn and hairy-footed flower bees in an old wall. Bumblebees nest communally, and like old mouseholes, the spaces under decking and garden sheds, compost heaps and bird boxes. We have a common carder nest under an old fern in the flowerbed.

Some commercial bee hotels are, in fact, bee graveyards. At the best they won’t attract bees – at the worst they will cause the larvae to die. If you are buying a bee hotel, make sure the holes are smaller than 12mm, they are at least 10cm deep, the edges are smooth (so as not to damage wings) and they are sealed at the rear end. They need to be waterproof and placed somewhere quiet and sunny.

It can be great fun to make your own – Dave Goulson provides detailed instructions in Gardening for Bumblebees, or try And don’t forget – flowers first! Bee hotels are pointless if there’s nothing for the bees to eat in the vicinity.


Bumblebees, the teddy bears of the natural world, are relatively easy to identify, and one of my greatest joys is sitting in a chair in the sunshine next to a lavender plant spotting bumblebees. Seriously, give it a go – you are very likely to see several species! Download my Bumblebee guide here>>

 By the way: don’t think that trying to keep urban bees is contributing. It’s not. Keeping honeybees to save the insects is like keeping chickens to save the birds. If you want to help bees, provide food – lots and lots of lovely flowers.

If you have huge meadows full of flowers, go for it and keep bees. Otherwise, all you’re doing is providing more competition for the threatened wild bee species (who, incidentally, are much more efficient pollinators than honeybees). Ok, rant over.

My Bumblebee guide 

Seriously, give it a go – you are very likely to see several species!

Useful links:

  • (in Dutch)

Further reading:

  • Menno Schilthuizen – Darwin Comes to Town
  • Dave Goulson – Gardening for bumblebees
  • Dave Goulson – The Garden Jungle
  • Dave Goulson – Silent Earth – averting the insect apocalypse
  • Oliver Milman – The Insect Crisis
  • Thor Hanson – Buzz
  • Bridget Strawbridge – Dancing with bees


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