What Flowers Attract Honeybees?

by Selina Kyle
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Many people swat at bees when they're buzzing around, but be careful not to kill these beneficial bugs. When you see bees on flowers, you may not realize the full importance of these industrious insects. All those busy little bees are pollinating billions of dollars of fruit, vegetable and nut crops and producing millions of dollars of honey for consumption.

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By understanding what flowers attract bees, you can create a vibrant garden that benefits the insects and your own ecosystem.

What Flowers Attract Bees?

When planting flowers to attract bees, the first question you should ask yourself is, what flowers do bees like? The best flowers for bees are those they find attractive due to their color and aroma, but flowering plants must also provide easy access.

Choose plant species with composite flowers that produce a lot of nectar and pollen or tubular flowers that make it easier for bees to collect nectar. Some top species of flowers that attract bees include:

  • Lavender: Fragrant blooms and nectar
  • Bee balm: Colorful tubular flowers, pleasant aroma and abundant nectar
  • Sunflowers and marigolds: Bright color and abundant pollen and nectar
  • Echinacea and zinnias: Open, daisy-like flowers that provide easy access
  • Borage: Brilliant blue flowers and a high amount of nectar
  • White clover: Relatively short florets that make nectar collection easier
  • Salvia: Nectar-rich flowers
  • Phacelia: Brilliant clusters of blue or purple flowers
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What Colors of Flowers Attract Honeybees?

Bees don't see colors the same as people, so they're attracted to certain colors more than others. Although honeybees are drawn to a broad range of flower colors, they strongly prefer blue flowers. However, purple, violet and yellow flowers also hold a special allure. But honeybees aren't limited to these colors. They'll also visit flowers of other colors, so incorporate a diverse selection to ensure a comprehensive floral display that attracts them to your garden.

How to Attract Bees to Your Garden

A large part of attracting honeybees to your garden is planting flowers that attract bees, but selecting the right flowers is only part of the process. Follow these tips to make your garden more attractive to honeybees:

  • Plant a variety of flowers. Bees are attracted to a diverse array of flowers. Choose flowering plants that bloom at different times throughout the growing season to provide a continuous supply of pollen and nectar.
  • Cluster your planting. Bees are more likely to notice large patches of flowers. Plant flowers for bees in clusters, instead of scattering them throughout your garden.
  • Time your blooms. Choose plants that bloom in the early spring and late fall to provide food sources for bees when resources may be scarce.
  • Select sunny areas. Make sure your garden has spots with ample sunshine, as bees are usually more active in sunny areas.
  • Create bee habits. Skip the mulch and leave some areas with exposed soil to provide nesting sites for bees that nest in the ground. Set up nesting blocks or bee houses for bees that nest in cavities, and include plants with dense foliage or hollow stems to provide further nesting opportunities.
  • Provide a water source. Like most creatures, bees need water to survive, especially on scorching summer days. However, they need shallow water sources that allow them to drink without drowning, such as shallow dishes with pebbles or floating plants.
  • Avoid or minimize pesticides. Use organic or natural pest control methods instead of pesticides, including insecticides and herbicides, which can harm bees. If you can't avoid them altogether, minimize pesticide use and apply them in the evenings when bees are less active.

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Why Do You Want to Attract Bees to Your Garden?

When you see a bee on a flower or plant, it's taking the pollen and nectar. Honeybees eat the sugary nectar for energy and consume a small amount of pollen for additional protein, vitamins and minerals. However, bees primarily gather the nectar to store in cells within the hive as a food source for growing bee larvae.

While bees collect what they need, they're also giving back to the ecosystem by inadvertently transferring pollen from the male parts of the flower to the female parts. This process is called pollination, which flowers and plants need to form seeds and produce offspring. Pollination is vital for plants that produce fruits and vegetables. Since people often consume these fruits and vegetables, honeybees significantly support the food needs of humans.

When planting flowers for bees, remember to include an array of flowering plants based on color, shape, scent and availability of nectar and pollen. A tempting smorgasbord that blooms throughout the season provides a steady food supply that will have bees returning for more.

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