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Borage, marjoram, and certain types of lavender are among the flowers most attractive to bees, a study that

tested what many gardeners already knew has found.



Scientists at the University of Sussex repeatedly counted flower-visiting insects that foraged on 32 popular
summer flowering garden plant varieties, in a specially planted experimental garden on the campus. In the
second and final year of study, additional gardens were set up to check the results.

Bees accounted for 85% of the visitors to the garden. Bumblebees were the most frequent visitors, followed by
honeybees and a few solitary bees.

Highly bred varieties of lavender, including grosso, hidcote giant and gros blue were the most attractive to
bumblebees, along with large single-flowered dahlias. Honeybees made a beeline for the blue borage flowers,
and marjoram, a popular herb with small pinkish white flowers, was the best all-rounder, popular with
honeybees, bumblebees and other bees, as well as hover flies, which accounted for 9% of the visitors, and
butterflies and moths, just 2%.

Flower-visiting insects study : Painted Lady Butterfly on Erysimum flower
A painted lady butterfly on a bowles mauve wallflower. Photograph: Krys Bailey/Alamy
Bowles mauve everlasting wallflower (Erysimum linifolium) was the most attractive plant for the butterflies
which visited the garden. The perennial lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina) was popular with an unusual species of
bee, the wool carder bee, which apart from feeding on it, uses the hairs of the plant for nest-building.

The least attractive flowering plant to insects was the pelargonium a popular bedding plant in parks and
gardens which is often incorrectly called a geranium. It was visited by virtually no insects. The study found that
the most popular plants attracted 100 times as many bees and other insects as the least popular.

The study, published today in Functional Ecology the journal of the British Ecological Society also showed
that some cultivated varieties and non-native flowers such as lavender from the Mediterranean and dahlias
from Mexico can be helpful for wildlife in the UK, and open-flowered varieties attract many more bees and
other insects than pom-pom, or double flowered varieties, which make it difficult for insects to reach the
flower's pollen and nectar. White and pink hybrid lavenders were visited as much as blue hybrid varieties,
suggesting that how long the plant is in bloom and the size of the flowers are more important for the bees than
the colour of the flowers.


Francis Ratnieks, professor of apiculture at Sussex University, said: "The most important message from this
study is that choosing flowers carefully makes a big difference to pollinators at zero cost. It costs no more to
buy bee friendly flowers and they are not more difficult to grow and are just as pretty. The flowers don't have
to be native, wild flowers."

Bumblebees and other wild bee species are threatened by habitat loss and intensive agriculture which has
virtually wiped out wildflower meadows in the UK. Honeybee colonies have been hit by parasites, pesticides
and poor nutrition.

Ratnieks said: "Bees are not as common as they used to be. What the public can do to reverse the trend is to
provide the nectar and pollen they need by planting bee-friendly flowers in their gardens."