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Adding Value To The Business of Cropping

Flowers for bees

Learning Intentions:

    Students will be able to:
  • grow and care for flowers that attract bees
  • assess which flower types are most favoured by bees
  • assess which bee types might be the best pollinators.

What You Will Need:

  • A packet of seeds labelled as 'pollinator blend', 'flowers for bees, or similar.
  • Access to a garden area.
  • Tools for cultivating the soil such as forks, hoes or trowels.
  • Hose or watering can.
  • Labels or pegs for identifying the rows.
  • The support of a friendly caretaker who might water the flower plants over weekends or holiday periods.

Examples of suitable seed mixes

What to do

  1. During spring and early summer choose a warm, sunny garden area.
  2. Make sure the ground is loose by cultivating it with a fork or hoe, and remove any weeds.
  3. Scratch grooves in the soil about 1-2 cm deep.
  4. Sprinkle the seeds into the grooves, then cover with soil and gently press it down. Mark the rows with labels or pegs.
  5. Water the soil every day to keep it damp. Do not allow it to dry out at any stage during germination.
  6. Once up, make sure the seedlings are kept weed-free and watered.
  7. Keep a diary of dates, observations and drawings of the plants as they grow.
  8. Use clues from the seed packet, reference material, and the internet to name the flowers.

Questions

Sunny, still days are best for observing bees.

  1. Which flowers seem to be most visited by honey bees and bumble bees? Gather evidence to support your ideas. To do this you might trial some counting, timing, and other techniques before you settle on a method.
  2. Which types of bees seem to be doing more of the flower visits? To find this out you might consider how many 'flower visits' a given bee type does per minute, and, how many of a given type of bee are present at any one time. Creating videos and taking photos might be helpful for this.
  3. Are the bees collecting pollen or nectar? How do you know?
  4. Why would we bother to grow flowers for bees?

Applying your ideas

  1. Let's say you are a beekeeper. Based on your findings, which types of flowers would you prefer to place your hives near to? Why?
  2. If you wanted to support a healthy population of bees in your garden or on the farm during the whole growing season, what could you do?
  3. Some seed crops grown on farms, like carrot or cabbage, need lots of pollinators such as bees and flies. How could you ensure these were present, ready to do the job?

Related resources

Introduced trees for bees Spotter Guide

Native 'trees for bees' Spotter Guide

Selecting trees for bees Activity

Trees for bees — keeping bees healthy