South West Wales

Bees' favourite plants revealed by Botanic Garden study

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Media captionBees will be buzzing if you plant these in your garden

National Botanic Garden of Wales research has revealed which plants bees choose for their pollen.

Scientists investigated the species honey bees liked most during spring as part of efforts to protect the bees' environment and better understand their habits.

Peonies, wallflowers, roses, and hyacinth are among the top 10 favourite garden plants.

Favoured wild plants include gorse, willow, hawthorn, oak and dandelion.

Research head Dr Natasha de Vere said bees face a lack of habitat brought about by the loss of hedgerows, woodland and meadows rich in plant species.

Without a healthy and diverse diet, they are unable to withstand pressures from pests, disease and insecticides.

Image copyright National Botanic Garden of Wales
Image caption Scientists carrying out research at the botanic garden's hives

"The main conclusion is that, during the spring, honey bees need native hedgerow and woodland plants, which means we must conserve these habitats," Dr de Vere added.

"The research also tells us that honey bees are supplementing this main diet with smaller amounts from parks and gardens - proving what we do in our own backyard is crucial."

The project - part of the Carmarthenshire garden's Saving Pollinators scheme - identified plant DNA in honey collected from its eight hives and quarter of a million bees.

Of the 437 different types of plants in flower in April and May in the botanic garden, only 11% were used by bees.

Image copyright National Botanic Garden of Wales
Image caption Bees also favour hellebore flowers

Honey bees need access to a wide variety of food throughout spring as they replenish honey stores and feed their young.

The research, carried out by Aberystwyth and Bangor university scientists, found their diet is supplemented by spring-flowering bulbs.

Other favourites include apple and cherry trees, hellebores, oak, holly, and wallflowers.

Researchers now plan to analyse honey from across Wales to understand what bees eat in other parts of the country.

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