If you do not have a beehive but want to attract pollinators to your garden, or if you have a hive and are trying to keep your bees well supplied, planting flowers and vegetables that appeal to bees is a wonderful thing to do. This can help to ensure the future of these little insects as well as providing the benefit of fertilization for your plants.
Bees are looking for two things when they come to your garden: nectar and pollen. Nectar is the sugar-loaded liquid located within the flower of a plant and it is the substance from which bees make honey. Bees forage for nectar and then bring it back to the hive to store in honey comb. Honey comb is recognizable from brood comb in a hive because it is much lighter in color and the cells themselves are often a bit smaller than brood cells.
Bees also pollinate plants in their travels, picking up the flower’s powdery discharge and transporting it to other plants, causing pollination. Certain flowers have more pollen and nectar than others, making them more attractive to bees. Many modern hybrid varieties of flowers have very low pollen levels, making them useless to bees, whereas heirloom varieties are excellent sources of nectar and pollen.
If you are trying to attract bees to your garden, start by selecting a variety of plants that bloom at different times of the year. While most gardens are in full swing in late June and early July, bees need nectar from very early spring through the first frost. Early varieties of vegetables and hardy types such as cucumbers and peas will bloom before many other flowers are in blossom and you can also plant flowers specifically to bloom in late fall.
Plant a variety of colors and styles of flowers to appeal the bees. Certain bees are attracted to certain flower shapes and colors, so planting a wide diversity will help different kinds of bees. Plant your flowers in clumps of 3-4 square feet to make them noticeable to the passing bees. And plant varieties with large, welcoming flowers such as sunflowers, coneflowers, and daisies.
A little bit of extra thought in the planning of a garden will make plants and bees alike happier and result in a healthier garden. Don’t forget our little insect friends when laying out your beds.
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