It’s a good idea to plant large drifts of single species to save the bee's energy. A honeybee only visits one type of flower in any one foraging trip which is called ‘ flower fidelity’ this is what makes them such efficient pollinators.
The colour blue is a good place to start. Bees are especially attracted to blues, violets, purples and white flowers. They can distinguish orange but stay away from reds as these look black to bees and are not appealing. Some flowers even exploit UV light to alert bees.
A plentiful supply of varied forage are essential to help pollinators withstand the impact of disease.
Consider leaving some areas of your garden to grow wilder. This will encourage species such as clover, daises and especially dandelions which give the first source of nectar after the lean colder months. Or sprinkle a wildflower mix for a bit of extra colour.
It’s easy for us to forget to think about our outside spaces during the winter months. A honeybee will fly whenever the temperature is above 10C even in the depths of winter. So think about planting early and late flowering varieties.
Honeybees have shorter tongues than bumblebees and butterflies so can’t feed from certain varieties. It’s safer to have a good selection of original wilder species or simpler forms of flowers where the pollen and nectar can be foraged with ease.
A few suggestions to keep the bees foraging in your garden throughout the year:
Allium, Aquilegia, Crocus, Comfrey, Euphorbia, Gorse, Hyacinth, Honesty, Poppy, Sweet Pea, Wood Anemone
Astilbe, Asters, Astrantia, Bee Balm/Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), Borage, Cirsium, Cornflower, Cosmos, Globe Thistle (Echinops), Helenium, Hollyhock, Knautia, Ox-eye Daisy, Sage, Salvia, Scabious, Thyme, Wall flower.
Aster, Bugbane (Actaea simplex), Catmint (Nepeta), Cyclamen, Goldenrod (Solidago), Michaelmas daises, Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Veronica, Yarrow
Hellebore, Snowdrop, Sweet Violet (Viola odorata), Winter Aconite (Eranthis), Winter Crocus, Witchhazel (Hamamelis)