What Flowers Do Bees Like?
Bees are often perceived as a summer annoyance—they swarm to your soda, fruit, or kids, leaving everyone scared of a sting. Although there’s some truth to this, bees have a very important job, namely pollinating. A world without bees would probably look very different from how it is now.
Some of the important bee species, such as honeybees and bumblebees, unfortunately, are on the verge of extinction. Use of pesticides and loss of habitat and foraging spots are all contributing to the decrease in numbers. By planting the flowers that bees like, we can help protect this very important insect.
Flowers That Bees Like
So, the bee generation is, unfortunately, declining, with more habitats being lost to residential areas and other human developments. However, there are, luckily, many flowers and other vegetation that we can plant in our backyards, to help restore the species.
Bees don’t have specific preferences, but there are still some flowers they tend to favor over others. Here are a few examples.
Pale Purple Coneflowers
The pale purple coneflower, or Echinacea pallida, is a favorite among various types of bees. It can grow to approximately 3 feet tall.
It’s so-called because of its colors. The stem is gray or red-green in color, with white, bristly hairs covering it. The slender petals are a pale lilac color and gently droop down to the sides. At the top of the stem sits the cone, which is a red-brown color.
This flower is a close relative to the herb family. It provides seeds, loved by birds, such as finches. It has the right color of purple to attract the bees, along with a pleasant flowery scent. It will provide lots of nectar and pollen while it’s in bloom from June to July. It may even attract a few butterflies as well.
Sunflowers are a favorite among bees, especially honeybees, who are the flowers’ most frequent visitor. Sunflowers have massive blooms with large petals ranging in colors from golden yellow, to more orange and reddish hues.
This rich flower provides us and numerous bird species with seeds that are rich in oils and nutrients. Sunflowers are also fairly easy to keep. Although some are large, there are also dwarf sizes for smaller gardens that will still attract plenty of bees.
This is another brightly-colored flower, perfect for any gardener looking to attract bees. Common yarrow has a flattened head, meaning that it’s easy for the bees to access. It looks beautiful as well, with the abundance of miniature daisies growing at the top, providing plenty of nectar.
This flower species is native to North America, where you can find different colored varieties, such as pink, white, or red. Common yarrow may also attract other helpful pollinators to your garden.
Horsemint is beneficial for many reasons. It has a long flowering window, providing honeybees with an opportunity to stock up on nectar and pollen before winter. It’s also the right color and fragrance to attract suitable pollinators.
It has a long blooming stem, with stunning pale purple to pink petals. It’s wonderful to have in the garden since it readily attracts plenty of pollinators.
Wild strawberry flowers are rich in nectar and are a favorite among bumblebees. This small plant produces miniature strawberries and thrives in a variety of locations, from pastures to forests. It’s also very easy to grow at home in the garden for the bees to harvest.
The flower itself has white, broad petals, with a yellow bloom in the center, where the pollen is located. It’s very easy for the bees to access, even for those with shorter tongues.
How Bees See Flowers
Bees have a very sensitive vision and they’re capable of seeing most colors, including ultraviolet. Most flowers use this to their advantage—over time, they have developed their petals to include ultraviolet patterns.
Bees and other insects are the only creatures that can see the ultraviolet colors. The ultraviolet patterns serve as guides for the bees, leading them to the nectar. If you look at a flower, let’s say a yellow one, chances are that the bee will see it in bluish, purple tones.
One color, however, that bees can’t see very well, is red. A red flower simply looks black in the eyes of a bee.
Some experts suggest that the flowers sporting red petals have evolved to serve only bird pollinators. There is some argument over this, though, seeing that bees do sometimes visit red flowers.
Why Are Flowers Important for Bees?
Flowers are where bees get most of their nutrition from. Flowers hold two of the main components of a bee’s diet, namely nectar and pollen. Flowers produce nectar to attract bees and other pollinators such as yellowjackets. It’s a sweet liquid that provides the bees with energy.
Pollen, on the other hand, is a powdery substance, produced by male plants. The pollen will attach to the bee while it drinks the nectar, which it then transports to a female flower.
Some species of bumblebees and honeybees have thick hind legs, which serve as pollen baskets. The bee can collect large amounts of pollen here to transport back to the colony, or to other flowers for pollination.
Eusocial bees, such as honeybees and bumblebees, send out workers to forage on the flowers. Solitary bees will forage for themselves.
If we look at honeybees, their colonies can easily grow to over 60,000 individual bees. That’s a lot of mouths to feed.
The larvae, as well as other bee workers, need something called bee pollen. This is an enriched mixture of pollen and proteins from the bee, which they store in the honeycomb cells.
The foragers do not eat or digest the nectar right from the flower. Instead, they suck it into a pouch-like container within their stomach, called the crop. Inside the crop, it’s mixed with an enzyme, preparing it to be transformed into honey.
Flowers are essential for bees, and bees are essential for flowers—they depend on each other for survival. Bees like a range of different flowers, from sunflowers, horsemint, to wild strawberries. Planting some of the flowers favored by bees can help bring back our helpful pollinators.