Llanelli Naturalists Newsletter - May 2002 - No 68
Ian Morgan

Do you want to help the biodiversity of your garden?  We all know that by planting berry-bearing shrubs, we can attract birds to our gardens and indeed some of these shrubs are also good for insects – hive bees, for example, love to visit Cotoneaster in flower.  And we all know the value of butterfly-bush Buddleja for attracting butterflies.

Generally speaking, to attract insects, we have to avoid ‘over-bred’ or double flowers.  The composites (daisy-shaped flowers), labiates (dead-nettles etc), many umbellifers (eg fennel) all provide nectar for bumble bees and hive bees, hoverflies and butterflies.  I was going to list some examples – but as the list was so long, it would out-grow a ‘Short Note’!.....but I can’t resist giving some suggestions (in no particular order!):-

Achillea (milfoil); Symphytum (various borages); Eryngium planum (a type of sea holly); golden-rod (Solidago spp); Asters; Echinops spp. (globe thistles) Verbascum spp. (mulleins); cone-flower (Echinacea); sages (Salvia spp) Marjoram (Origanum vulgare etc), red valerian (Centranthus ruber); Inula spp; teasel Dipsacus fullonum; lavender (Lavandula); Lamium spp (dead-nettles) and various members of the pea family..........  If you have room, try one of the magnificent Atlantic Islands Echiums – (these huge viper’s buglosses can grow to 4 metres!) and are towers of sustenance for bees.  Try Echium pininana or its hybrid with E. wildpretti.

Finally – and coming back to earth – bumblebees emerging from hibernation greatly appreciate the ‘winter heath’ Erica carnea (commonly available from garden centres in pink or white forms).  This low-growing heather will provide a feast for your bumble bees and provide you with one of the first ‘signs of spring’ – often the early buff-tailed bumble bee Bombus terrestris and later, the white-tailed bumble bee B. lucorum, and the common (all buff-coloured) carder bee B. pascuorum).  At the same time, don’t be fooled by the hoverfly Eristalis pertinax, early individuals of which are often mistaken for hive bees on the first sunny days of late winter.

A good book to browse if you want nectar-rich plants for a wildlife friendly garden is Dream Plants for the Natural Garden, Henk Gerritsen & Piet Oudolf 1999 ISBN 0711217378 £20.00.