The honeybee is one of the most important insects to humankind. Not only do they provide the honey which we all enjoy, they are also responsible for pollinating a large percentage of our crops and ornamental plants. It’s been estimated that honeybees contribute over $14 billion to the value of U.S. crop production. Many crops rely almost entirely on honeybee pollination. In fact, almonds are completely dependent on honeybees for their pollination. Unfortunately, honeybee colonies have been disappearing at an alarming rate since the mid-2000s. Known as colony collapse disorder, the phenomenon has scientists baffled. In order to encourage the growth of bee populations and ensure the future of agriculture it’s important we as gardeners, landscapers and homeowners do everything possible to promote a honeybee-friendly environment.
What to Plant
When you’re designing a landscape or deciding what plants to include in your garden, be sure to select plants that bees will be attracted to. These of course include flowering plants, but don’t overlook trees, shrubs and groundcover. There are three factors to look for when selecting plants: size and shape of the flower, color and strength of the fragrance. These attributes are what bees look for upon entering your landscape. Generally the bigger, more colorful flowers with strong fragrance are preferred. Also be aware that many of our modern flower varieties have been hybridized. While hybrid plants and flowers provide us with desirable attributes, they can also be very low in pollen and nectar. When selecting bee-friendly plant material, it’s best to avoid hybrids. Native wildflower blends are the best choice.
Where and How to Plant
Placement is also important when creating a bee-friendly landscape. Honeybee stings are rare, but can happen. Plant designated bee areas away from patios, windows and other places where they could pose a problem to people. Honeybees are usually very docile and harmless, but if you’re sensitive or allergic to bee stings it’s best to avoid potential contact. When placing your plants, arrange them in clumps. Clusters and groups of flowers will attract more honeybees than scattering them around the yard will. Place these clumps in areas of your yard that receive full-sun. Honeybees prefer sunny areas with shelter from strong wind. Remember to plant a wide assortment of flowers that bloom during different seasons. This will provide year-long nectar and pollen for bees.
Finally, limit your use of pesticides and herbicides. While nobody knows for sure what’s causing colony collapse disorder, scientists believe pesticides and herbicides may be contributing to the declining honeybee populations. Honeybees are very sensitive to chemicals. Many of the common chemicals used in lawn and garden care are toxic to bees.
Here is a small list of some of the best bee-friendly wildflowers we have available here at Nature’s Finest Seed:
- White Clover
- Purple Cone Flower
- Bee Balm
- Rocky Mountain Beeplant
- Lance-Leaved Coreopsis
- Blanket Flower
- Bird’s Foot Trefoil
- Evening Primrose