What Flowers to Plant For Bees

People often ask me what flowers they should plant for the bees. If you are someone that’s been buzzing around in the “bee” world for a while, you know the answer to this seemingly simple question is quite layered. In this blog I will share the best places to find this information!

First of all, which bees are we talking about here?

Let’s talk about the Save the Bees slogan for a moment. Here’s the thing…I would argue that in some situations honeybees do actually need saving (albeit usually from beekeepers). Sometimes honeybees from pesticide. Swarms that end up in public places often need help. Honeybees that found their home in people’s houses need protected and removed.

There was a time in the 1990’s that honeybees were, in fact, in dire need of help. If you were around during that time, or again in 2006, you’ve probably heard of Colony Collapse Disorder. Beekeepers were reporting strange colony losses as high as 60%. If you know that honeybees pollinate over 100 of our fruits and vegetables, you can see why this could be a critical food supply issue. Even today it is unknown what caused CCD. Most think it was several factors.

But (there’s always a but), while honeybees tend to get a lot of attention, there are around 20,000 bees on our planet and around 4,000 species of bees in the United States. Most bees are solitary and make small nests underground (70% of them!) or in the hollows of plant stems. We all love the chunky booty bumblebee but do you know where they live? Do you know several species of bumblebee are on the brink of extinction? Do you know that yellowjackets are social bees that have a queen, worker bees, and drones?

Save the Pollinators!

My argument has always been we should stop using the Save the Bees slogan and change it to Save the Pollinators! It makes things way less confusing and opens up the conversation to include all the precious pollinators that need our help.

What To Plant For the Bees! (The moment you’ve been waiting for!)

There are misconceptions as to what to plant for pollinators so I think for best results, we should rely on the professionals. The Xerces Society has made it really easy to do! As you can see from some of the book photos in this blog they’ve done the research-so we don’t have to. The books are all fantastic and describe 100 native flowers/plants/trees you can plant for pollinators!

100 Plants to Feed the Bees can be purchased on the publishers website. This book is full of information that will help you create a thriving habitat that can help pollinators thrive. It would make a fantastic gift for a new homeowner, the neighbor you are trying to encourage to not use pesticides, or basically anyone. It could even encourage those living in an apartment by encouraging them they, too, have the power to help support our pollinators-even in small spaces!

100 Plants to Feed the Monarch can be purchased on the publishers website. This book is a fantastic resource that is visually engaging and easy to follow. It digs just as deep as 100 Plants to Feed the Bees but teaches the reader all about the Monarch, it’s fragile state, and the threat it’s facing due to habitat loss and climate change.

The Milkweed Lands is a beautifully illustrated book that shares all about this often overlooked flowering plant and the amount of insects and organisms that depend on it throughout the year. You will never look at Milkweed the same!

What I Love About These Books

First of all, they are beautiful! There are lots of images and each page is dripping with juicy details about each plant. It shows the native range of each plant, shares details about growing conditions for each plant, and other insects the plant hosts. It also gives the native range so you will be able to see if the plant will grow in your region. You will find that many of the same plants that are good for butterflies are also great for the bees!

A Few Other Things…

Keep in mind that getting a beehive for your backyard isn’t necessarily a way to get your small backyard garden pollinated. If you decide to become a beekeeper do it because you want to learn about beekeeping. Most of the bees pollinating your backyard garden will be solitary native bees. Honeybees actually prefer large patches of forage (think a giant field of goldenrod, large patch of black-eyed susans, or field of wildflowers) and will normally pass on a couple flowering plants in pots in your yard. You will find the solitary bees enjoying the blooms in your garden.

Getting a beehive isn’t the way to save the bees. If you want to save the bees-plant flowers and trees! Stop using pesticides in your yard because they are, in fact, killing the bees and not saving them. Stop removing pollinator habitats. Leave the leaves and dead plants and flowers in your yard so solitary bees have nesting sites for the winter.

You will hear some folks arguing that honeybees will kill native bees and/or take their food. There is a lot of conflicting research in this field. The fact of the matter is, there isn’t one easy answer and it depends on several factors-the location of the honeybees, how many hives there are in that location, and the plants and flowers all of the bees have access to.

Despite the neverending argument between those who like to argue, every one of us can agree that all bees are facing extreme challenges and the bottom line is that just like us, they need more clean food!

We all have control over what happens in our yards, planters, window boxes, raised bed gardens, etc. Beekeepers can help by tending to their hives and making sure our bees are healthy. At the end of the day every single one of us has a responsibility to help our pollinators thrive. Mostly because our lives depend on it. No big deal.