Resolve to be Kind to Bees in 2009

It’s estimated than one in every three bites of food we eat is courtesy of our bee friends. Offer these helpers something to feed on...

Credit: Sharon Hanna

There are over 25,000 bee species worldwide and about 4,000 species native to North America.

Nearly all of them are gentle creatures who have no interest in stinging. They are searching for pollen and nectar to feed themselves and their bee babies. Bees are attracted to flowers which contain nectar and pollen. As bees visit other flowers, pollen rubs off… this is a very oversimplified way of describing a ridiculously important process—vital for the creation of most food on the planet!—so bee expert Brian Campbell will be guest blogging very soon on the subject. Reality check: most fruits and vast numbers of veggies come about as a direct result of bees and their work. It’s estimated than one in every three bites of food we eat is courtesy of our bee friends. So, here is a seasonal lineup of some readily available bee-attracting plants for Bee-C in your biodiverse garden—to nurture the bees, this year and every year:

DoronicumDoronicum (Leopard’s Bane) Eryngium (sea holly)Eryngium (sea holly) Oreganum 'Barbara Tingey'Oreganum ‘Barbara Tingey’

Late winter, early spring:

Doronicum (Leopard’s Bane) ➢ Rhododendrons ➢ Crocus ➢ Buttercups (see “Weeds” below) ➢ Eric/Calluna (heather attracts bees spring through winter) ➢ Pulmonaria (lungwort)


AubretiaAzaleaPolemonium ➢ Columbine ➢ Evening primrose

Late spring:

➢ Lupine ➢ Foxglove ➢ Tulip ➢ California/Oriental poppies ➢ Anchusa


➢ Flowers of most herbs especially sage ➢ Mint ➢ Marjoram ➢ Thyme ➢ Lavender ➢ Fennel and borage (an annual) are outstanding bee attractors. ➢ Comfrey is too—but it can be invasive! ➢ Oregano (Try a relatively new introduction called O. ‘Barbara Tingey’—here’s a photo)


Sunflowers are super important. Agastache (licorice mint) is a lovely self-seeding annual that you can also make a tea from. Grow sweet alyssum, Cerinthe, cosmos, Linaria (Moroccan toadflax), snapdragons, Zinnia.


Alcea (hollyhock) ➢ Asters of all kinds ➢ Centaurea montanaCoreopsisEchinacea (coneflowers) ➢ Echinops ritro (globe thistle) ➢ EchiumEryngiumErysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’ ➢ Anything sunflower-related like: Heliopsis, Helianthemum, Helianthus tuberosum (Jerusalem artichoke), Lavatera, Liatris, Lychnis, Nepeta, Perovskia (Russian sage), Rudbeckia, Salvia, Scabiosa, Tithonia, Tradescantia


Arbutus unedo (strawberry tree) ➢ Arctostaphylos uva ursi (kinnickinnick) ➢ Cistus (foliage smells like honey) ➢ EscalloniaLigustrum (privet—covered with bees when it’s in bloom) ➢ Ceanothus (California Lilac) ➢ Portuguese laurel ➢ CotoneasterHebe


➢ Hawthorne ➢ Malus sp. (crabapple, other apples) ➢ Oxydendron (sourwood)


It’s a good idea to learn to love these naturally occurring plants, which bees love. At least let them live somewhere in the lane or in a patch especially for them: Dandelions are especially useful in cold springs when other flowers might not be blooming yet. Also good: white clover, vetch, buttercups.

Cover crops/green manure

Buckwheat, Phacelia tanacetifolia (“Bee’s Friend) whose flowers unfold like an octopus and comprise compound florets. Sow seeds for both these self-seeding annuals in spring for fun anywhere in your garden! Buckwheat and Phacelia, along with other seed for plants named above are available from West Coast Seeds; Renee’s Garden sells many types of seed for bee and other beneficial insect-attracting flowers and veggies.