Sunday, May 26, 2019

Native Plants for Native Bees

Support for pollinators is increasing as the message about their importance circulates to even wider audiences. Pollinator Week was created twelve years ago and is now celebrated world-wide, taking the message even further. I have been frustrated every year with graphic images that get circulated showing “flowers to support bees” but which contain 80% non-native plants and largely reference benefits to honey bees (which are great but they are not native to the US).

I have told myself for years that someone needs to create one for native bees. This year, I finally did it (with the help of my very talented husband, of course). Since this blog is Georgia-focused, the graphic that we created focuses on southeastern native plants (I hope this inspires other regional lists). Unlike other graphics which focus on herbaceous plants, I have more realistically included some woody shrubs and trees as well since native bees use them too.  

The plant photos are my own and the two bee images are educational photos from Clay Bolt’s website. The big one on the left is our most common bumble bee, Bombus impatiens (I love how it is named for a native flower that it frequents, Impatiens sp.). He didn’t identify the bee on the right, but I think it is also a species of bumble bee (please post in the comments if you know it).

I have written many times about supporting our native bees and you can find a list of those posts by clicking this link. The list on this graphic is unfortunately short due to the nature of people wanting a quick and colorful graphic. I deliberately only listed the genus name of these plants; each one can have a variety of species which you can choose to use. You can find 10 pages of native plant recommendations by looking at my Spring, Summer, and Fall lists in my latest pollinator post here.

Bumble bee on partridge pea
Metallic green bee on milkweed

Southeastern blueberry bee
Leafcutter bee on orange coneflower

Native bees have unique relationships with native plants that they don’t have with non-native plants. While some can certainly benefit from the non-native plants recommended in the other graphics, some of them will go hungry. In addition, native plants also support other herbivore insects like moths and butterflies that use them for host plants. And honey bees can use our native plants too, of course.

Bumble bee on bushy St. John's wort

Bumble bee on wild bergamot

Unknown bee on aster

Unknown bee on redbud

Small carpenter bee on wild plum

Feel free to download this graphic (it is a jpg) and share it far and wide. Let’s get the message out louder for native bees and the native plants that support them.