BBKA Forum

British Beekeepers Association Official Forum 

  • A cautionary tale.

  • General Chat about Gardens & Flowers
General Chat about Gardens & Flowers
 #8491  by huntsman.
 13 Aug 2020, 15:54
About 20m from my home apiary I have seven beds measuring 5m x 2m.

This spring I decided to reserve two of these for flowers for pollinators.

So in spring I bought a box of seeds (a box as big as a large book, seeds suspended in vermiculite) and sowed these.

Dear enough at about £10.

On the box it claimed this was approved by the RHS for pollinators. Contains a very long list of annuals and perennials.

So far, I have hardly seen any pollinators visiting this plot. The odd honeybees was seen on the blue cornflowers but there was no interest with the rest.

My second and different seed box has grown but not yet in flower as it was sown much later.

I won't mention the name but this product is produced by a very reputable seed producer.

So is seed packaging like fishing lures in that they are designed to first catch a fisherman?

Sometimes it doesn't always do what it says on the tin.
 #8492  by NigelP
 13 Aug 2020, 17:11
A lot can depend on what lives in your area, regarding other pollinators. This year has been poor all round in my area. Buddliea's hardly visited by bumbles or butterflies. Most years they are covered in them.

In my garden I've found honey bees ignore most summer flowers , except Borage, Phaecilia, Marjoram, Thyme and rosemary. This year they are currently avid on my lavender, which they usually ignore but the bumbles love. There will be many other plants they will visit....just not growing in my garden / wry grin/
Perhaps others can tell us what they have in their gardens that bees can't ignore?
 #8498  by Steve 1972
 13 Aug 2020, 19:24
My lady friend and her Sister bought those shake and vac type wild seed boxes a couple of years back..not a pollinator in the north east touched the sad display of flowers..if you want bee friendly flowers buy a few Kg of Phacilia seeds and sow them three weeks apart through out the will have endless forage for nectar and pollen collectors and when the plants die of they will fertilize the soil..2:1 so to speak..
 #8500  by huntsman.
 13 Aug 2020, 20:25
Hi Steve.

Yes, 'Shake and Vac' is a very good description of this product.

Not fair to sell it for pollinators when it doesn't help them. Seed merchants making a profit off people wanting to do a good deed, is very sad.

I'll give it another year and if I'm not happy I will dig the lot in. I'm rural and my bees have plenty to forage on, so this experiment was only for fun.

My best forage in my garden is a large bed of bell-heather which flowers December to May. The bees love it as they are sheltered from any wind as they can walk from flower to flower. This I would certainly recommend. The purple flowers seem to be the best.

In future I'll look for BBKA pollinator approval on seeds (if available) and not RHS.
 #8501  by Patrick
 13 Aug 2020, 21:03
Unfortunately many so-called wildflower mixes are actually not UK native species or cultivars mass produced for commercial horticulture or species chosen because they look good or (most commonly) they are cheaply available in the commercial market as a byproduct of another market (such as cut or dried flowers).

A lot of mass produced bird food mixes suffer from exactly the same problem and bulked out with rubbish. Sadly, as pointed out, often a cynical exercise is exploiting people’s good will.

Better to “pick your own” species and sources if you can.
 #8502  by AndrewLD
 14 Aug 2020, 06:21
Our association gave away loads of wild flower "bee friendly" seed packets (they were given to us) but I have to say my attempts with them have not achieved success and they don't attract honeybees; more often bumblebees, so some good came out of it.
Seems to me there are two problems. Firstly, to have any chance of getting anything reasonable in terms of quantity, the seeds have to be sown in prepared ground, you can't just sprinkle them and hope for the best.
Second, the honeybee scouts tend to specialise on a particular plant, and then recruit to that plant. The bees then forage on it until it has gone. The overall quantity of that plant's nectar and pollen is key to the scouts selling it to their fellow workers so they will happily ignore your wild flowers to go for the bigger source in the field, hedgerow. I only see honeybees on my plants such as lavender when the big provider sources have stopped. Wild bees and bumblebees love them though.
So these seed packets aren't really for honeybees at all but help the other bees as long as the flowers survive to get established.
 #8503  by Patrick
 14 Aug 2020, 09:22
Andrew is right, they often don’t establish well simply scattered on existing grassland. As well as unsuitable varieties as mentioned above, the usual reasons they struggle to germinate and establish in already dense vigorous tight grass swards. Grasses are particularly good at smothering out other plants and not allowing them them to compete. Then there may be unsuitable soil chemistry and often over fertile ground, which again benefits vigorous plants like nettles, docks and grasses.

The usual success rate to mature plants of even large seeds in non intervention cultivation is often very low. One of the most prolific seed producers are orchids - but we are not exactly overrun with them either.

It’s one reason why garden centres sell established plants. You can try growing them on in trays of plugs then planting out the plug. After all if they don’t thrive as established plants they probably wouldn’t have as seed either. There are a few specific bee orientated nurseries out there well worth supporting.

Wildflower meadow creation and maintenance is actually pretty challenging, it’s a lot more than simply bunging out a load of seeds. It’s a big reason why looking after our natural sites is so important.

Or just think three dimensionally and plant young trees that are great for pollinators. The success rate will likely be 100% and will go on for years just getting better and better.