Q. I have been reading about the decline of honeybee
populations and wondered what I could do in my own garden to
encourage and protect honeybees? What plants do honeybees like
Honeybee populations have declined at an alarming rate. Researchers
participating in the
Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium
(including faculty from Penn State University’s Entomology
Department) studying the phenomena of colony collapse disorder (CCD)
found that roughly one-third of honeybee colonies died out during
the winter of 2006 – 2007.
They theorize that no one factor causes
CCD, but rather the
combination of several factors impacting honeybee populations at the
same time. These include varroa mites, diseases such as the recently
discovered Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV), pesticides and poor
nutrition. This decline also affects other pollinators (other bee
species, butterflies and moths, some beetles and flies, bats and
hummingbirds), and has been well documented in Great Britain and the
Netherlands as well as the United States. The loss of pollinators
could have significant consequences for the world’s food supply.
Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and to a lesser extent, legumes such as
peanuts and soybeans are dependent on insect pollination. The crops
impacted make up about one-third of our diets.
There are a number of steps you can take in your own yard to attract
pollinators and keep them safe while they are visiting. One of the
most important things you can do is to plant a diversity of
flowering plants to provide the pollen and nectar they depend
upon. A combination of flowering trees and shrubs and perennial and
annual flowering plants provides a range of flower shapes, colors,
sizes and fragrances.
Adding some native plants to the mix will make
your yard more inviting to native bee species such as mason bees.
Try to have something in bloom from early spring through late fall
so there is a constant supply of pollen and nectar. It is best to
avoid double flowers because they produce little, if any, pollen.
Plants that are especially attractive to pollinators are listed at
the end of this article.
Honey Bee collecting pollen
Limit pesticide use as much as possible, especially
insecticides, and choose the least toxic product that will control
the problem effectively. Least toxic products include insecticidal
soap and horticultural oil that have no residual activity once the
spray has dried, and botanical insecticides that have very short
residual activity because they break down very quickly on exposure
to sunlight. If you do have to spray, do so in the evening after
bees have returned to their nests. Avoid spraying any crop when it
is in bloom, and mow the flowers off blooming weeds under plants
before you spray them.
A shallow source of water is also attractive to pollinators. A pot
saucer partially filled with sand, then topped with water so that it
just covers the sand works nicely. Add a few flat stones to give
them a place to rest.
If possible, stop mowing a strip of lawn and allow any weeds to grow
there as well. An area like this provides a protected place for some
pollinators to lay eggs and pupate, while the flowers on the weeds
offer pollen and nectar. When cleaning up your flower beds at the
end of the season, allow healthy plants to remain, just in case a
pollinator is spending the winter there.
Trees & Shrubs bees like
Red Maple (Acer
Black Gum (Nyssa
Black Currant (Ribes)
Black Locust (Robinia
Raspberry (Rubus spp.)
Annuals & Perennials bees like
Anise hyssop (Agastache
Hyssop (Agastache rupestris)
Allium (Allium spp.)
Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Globe Thistle (Echinops
Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium
Geranium (Geranium spp.)
Blazing Star (Liatris
Four O’clock (Mirabilis
Bee Balm (Monarda
Russian Sage (Perovskia
Garden Phlox (Phlox
paniculata – plant powdery mildew resistant varieties such as
Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum
spp., annual and perennial varieties)
Flower (Scabiosa columbaria)
White Clover (Trifolium
Storing Seeds from your Garden