How and Why To Garden For the Bees

Here’s something to think about. There are 46 native bumblebee species in North America, and research suggests that one-quarter of these species are at risk of extinction. This is a concerning trend for many reasons, one of which is that bees are among the most effective pollinators.  

Unlike other pollinators that carry and distribute pollen because it just happens to stick to their bodies, many bees are intentionally collecting and transporting it. They need the pollen to feed their young and so they have evolved very efficient ways of carrying it around.

Bumble bee on Lacewing plants Heliopsis helianthoides or false sunflower

Bees also show a behaviour that scientists call “flower constancy” which means they will consistently choose to visit certain plant species or varieties over others, even when there are better choices available. This is very good news for some plants!

All of this efficient bee-driven pollination is critical for supporting our ecosystems and our economies. This includes plant populations and organisms below the soil and above who have relationships with the plants that are being pollinated.

Zoom in now and think about human food crops and human activity: Three quarters of crop species worldwide require pollinators. In our economic system, this translates to hundreds of billions of dollars worth of crops that depend on pollinators.

So, bees and the pollination work they do are really important for our own survival. Which then raises the question: How can we help to reverse the trend of disappearing bees and support pollinators in our backyards?

Different pollinators have different needs for their food and habitat and these needs change throughout their lifecycle. So, planting several different species of plants that flower at different times throughout the season will help to meet the needs of many. It is also important to leave some bare soil for ground dwelling bees, and provide habitat like rocks, wood, leaf litter and stems that are left standing over the winter.

Here are some native plants that we've found are powerhouses for attracting and feeding native bees:

Purple Giant Hyssop, Heart-leaved aster, Hoary Vervain, Purple Prairie Clover, Spotted Bee Balm, Dense Blazing Star, Showy Goldenrod, Wild Bergamot, Grey Headed Coneflower, Foxglove Beardtongue......and so many more!

Happy Planting and don't forget to Garden for the Bees!

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