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Tip of the Month

Pollinator Plants for 'June Gap'

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The ‘June Gap’ – in the simplest of terms, is when the spring flowers and the fruit blossom is over. Flowers that have been pollinated stop producing their nectar and the summer flowers are not yet in full bloom. This means that there is a sudden reduction in the amount of pollen and nectar available for all pollinators.

 

At this time of year honey bee colonies are approaching their peak in worker population in readiness for the summer flow, Queens are laying at a prolific rate and colonies have many larva to feed. A reduction in incoming nectar and pollen during this time can leave large colonies struggling to feed themselves.

 

The ‘June Gap' is often felt the most in rural areas dominated by agriculture. In contrast urban areas rarely feel this because our towns and larger villages contain an abundance of exotic plants which bloom throughout June filling the gap in forage availability.

Residential gardens and other green spaces are important sources of nectar. Plants such as Hebe, Choisya, Pyracantha and Cotoneaster – are popular with bees and are widely planted in public areas such as parks. Shrubs like Ceanothus provide an abundance of yellow pollen and include several varieties which flower throughout June.

 

Residential neighbourhoods contain many exotic trees which flower after our native species have ceased flowering. These include Sweet Chestnut, and  Laburnum alongside native Limes. In urban areas with milder microclimates our native Limes will flower much earlier than in rural areas.

 

Great plants for your garden include: hardy Geraniums (not Pelargoniums), Oxeye Daisies, Field Poppies, and herbs, such as Thyme, Chives, Catmint, Lemon balm, Coriander and Rosemary. Borage is particularly fantastic, it’s prolific, self seeds, has a long flowering period and the bees love it. Lots of the soft fruits (raspberries and gooseberries) provide nectar and pollen from late Spring into early Summer. Bramble is a great source of food and has been seen flowering locally from June through to the end of August.

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As June progresses Lavender, Echinops, and Escalonia will come into flower all of which are popular with bees.

Cherry and Laurel species will have ceased flowering but they produce leaves with extra floral nectaries at their base and in some species smaller outlets along the serrated leaf edge. When moisture levels in the soil combine with warm sunny weather these plants can produce more sugars through photosynthesis than they require so they exude the surplus sugars through these extra floral nectaries. Bees can often be seen collecting from these plants. Please don’t cut your hedges during these months.

There are a number of plants common in rural areas which also produce extra floral nectary’s which will be visited by bees. These include Bracken, plentiful in the countryside around the New Forest. Bees will also take advantage of the sticky secretions produced by aphids as they suck the sap of broadleaf trees. These alternative sources of forage can make life a little easier for our honey bees during this time of shortage.

 

So do your best and plant for the ‘June Gap' plus encourage your friends, family and neighbours to do the same.

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