If your garden has seemed different in recent years, with that familiar buzz much quieter, the air less colourful and alive, it’s probably not your imagination. Bee and butterfly populations face alarming declines worldwide. That’s a scary thought, considering that most of the crops we eat rely on these (formerly) frequent visitors.
It’s true that no one person can single-handedly restore the monarch butterfly and reverse the honeybees’ downward spiral, but as we work on the larger issues at play, like climate change and widespread pesticide use, pollinators need safe spaces to feed and find mates. That’s where you come in: make your own yard a pollinator-friendly pit stop with a few simple fixes.
Why are bees so important?
Bees are such a precious part of our ecosystem, and there has been some concern about their well-being over the last few years. It is thought that certain pesticides as well as mass monoculture farming are playing a key role in weakening their immune systems, causing colony collapse, and declining numbers. Loss of habitat and urbanisation are also taking their toll. This problem is far more severe in the industrialised northern hemisphere but is starting to gain ground in South Africa too.
By making your garden a biodiverse haven, you can play your part in keeping the bees thriving as an indispensable part of our ecosystem.
It’s important to make sure that you are not using nasty pesticides in your garden that are known to contain bee-harming chemicals such as neonicotinoids. Read your labels – they usually contain acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, and/or thiamethoxam as active ingredients. Explore greener, healthier pest control options.
Plants that bees love
Some more bee-loving tips
- Bees are especially attracted to purple, violet, blue, blue-green, yellow, ultraviolet, and white flowers, and they prefer scented flowers.
- Plant flowers that bloom at different times of the year to keep the bees well fed year-round.
- A bee bath needs to be shallower than a bird bath – a shallow tray-like bath of water is ideal. You can also put some marbles in a shallow pan and fill it with water – that way the bees will have somewhere to land and drink.
Care for our Butterflies
If you want the privilege of these floating jewels in your garden, you’ll need to make peace with a few munching caterpillars, because that’s how butterflies start off. To encourage butterflies in your garden means you must allow for the larval stage too – your garden should serve as a sanctuary to nurture and protect the butterfly throughout the stages of its life.
Go lightly on pesticides and only use them when necessary, to give caterpillars a fighting chance as they are already pitted against plenty of natural predators. especially if you are creating a diverse ecosystem in your garden. Toxic pesticides can also get into the plant nectar that adult butterflies drink.
Plants that butterflies love
Our top picks to include in your garden to attract butterflies are Cape plumbago, Cape honeysuckle, butterfly bush, lavender, daisies and impatiens.
Some more butterfly-loving tips
- When it comes to flowers, butterflies like colours ranging from blue to mauve, red, pink or white.
- Some butterflies like rotting fruit such as bananas or pineapple, so leave some fruit from your fruit trees to rot on the ground as food.
- They like to get some minerals from pockets of mud too, so a little mud puddle or two will be appreciated.
Bringing insects back into our garden
Let’s aim to bring back all the beneficial insects back into our garden and appreciate them for all pollinating services they provide. They buzzing of the bees and the colourfulness of butterflies definitely puts a smile on our faces.