Avid gardeners take note: It's never too late to get out your shovel and start planting flowers to help the honeybee population, which is in danger of extinction. Widespread colony collapse disorder is due to environmental stress stemming from overuse of pesticides as well as parasitic attacks, according to experts. This affects not just the honeybees but also our food supply.
"Over 75 percent of the foods we eat require pollination," says Miriam Goldberger, author of "Taming Wildflowers: Bringing the Beauty and Splendor of Nature's Blooms into Your Own Backyard," and owner of Wildflower Farm, the largest (and oldest) wildflower seed company in Canada. "The most effective pollinators of food crops are European honeybees and North American native bees."
Just think: By adding (floral) inventory to your landscape, you'll also attract pollinators year-round because more than 75 kinds of wildflowers provide pollen for bees. "The best thing is to plant annuals that bloom all season," suggests Polly Hutchinson, an organic flower farmer at Robin Hollow Farm in Saunderstown, Rhode Island. “That gives bees way more to feed on and it’s a great way to support the population you have on your property.” So, why not roll up your sleeves and read on, as we share the top plants you should consider planting — and you can do it this weekend.
These blue, pink and purple flowers are ideal additions to your garden since they bloom in late-summer and stay in bloom into fall, making them a welcome option for honeybees to feed on when other flowers in your garden are no longer in bloom.
2. Black-eyed Susans
The black-eyed Susan, already a honeybee favorite, will become your favorite due to its easy planting schedule. (Photo: D Coetzee [CC0 1.0]/Flickr)
With stalks that grow to three feet and beyond, these yellow flowers that boast a brown-purple center are a honeybee fave. Best of all, they are long-lived perennials native to North America, so there's no need to replant.
Technically a weed, this yellow sprout is beloved by bees. "Let them be," Hutchinson advises. "Yes, dandelions are weeds, but they're also great for bees and their roots go way down, which ultimately puts nutrients from lower down in the ground up to help feed your grass. They're a win-win plant!"
4. Lemon balm
This perennial herb that's part of the mint family, aka Melissa officinalis, is a perfect bee-attracting addition to any partly shady garden. It also has a long history. In ancient Greek times, this herb was planted near their bee hives to help keep the honeybees well-fed from the plant's nectar-rich flowers and to help prevent their bees from swarming, says Aaron von Frank, an expert organic gardener and co-founder of GrowJourney, a USDA-certified organic Seeds of the Month Club. "We grow it in our garden and our neighbor’s honeybees cover the flowers throughout the blooming cycle," he says. "Lemon balm makes a delicious tea, too."
5. Purple coneflower
Purple coneflowers are much beloved by honeybees. (Photo: Jamie Weliver/USFWS [CC 1.0]/Flickr)
Otherwise known as echinacea, this resplendent daisy-like flower is a honeybee magnet and provides both pollen and nectar to foraging bees.
Snapdragons release a stronger scent than most other flowers, and this attracts lots and lots of bees. (Photo: Gytha69 [CC BY 2.0]/Flickr)
During the day when bees are looking for nourishment, snapdragons release four times more scent, which draws honeybees to them. Adding to the allure: The bees then carry the aroma of the snapdragon back to the hive. This attracts even more bees to the flowerbeds.
Honeybees can't detect the color red, so be sure to plant the yellow or orange variety of sunflowers. (Photo: Sue Reynolds [CC BY-SA 2.0]/Flickr)
A hardy annual that's tall and grows into strong stalks, sunflowers are a honeybee must-plant. Opt for yellow or orange sunflowers instead of red ones, since bees can't detect the color red when they seek out places to feed.
A perennial, these bright flattened buds that come with a signature fernlike leaf are favorite spots for bees to collect nectar. They're also ideal for cutting and drying once the season is over.
These easy-to-grow flowers stay in bloom for most of the season and are colorful, too. "Anything that has a lot of small flowers on the flower is great for bees," Hutchinson says. "You want to seek out flowers that can provide more pollen, which ultimately provides that much more food for the bees."