Plants for Bees

Perennials

  • Spring beauty.

  • Jacob’s ladder

  • Golden ragwort

  • Wild strawberries

  • Violets

  • Zizia

  • Penstemon

  • Sun drops (Oenothera species)

  • Hibiscus

  • Monarda

  • Thistles

  • Woodland sunflowers

  • Asters

  • Goldenrods

There are around 400 species of native bees in Virginia, plus the European honeybee. About 80% of bees are plant generalists - they can forage on a wide variety of flowers. To support these bees, provide a succession of blooms from early spring to late fall. Use locally native plants that fit into the ecosystem.

20% are specialists, requiring certain plant species (an easy example is the Southeastern Blueberry Bee.) The life cycle of these bees is timed to the bloom time of their plants. One major determinate of which flowers they use is the shape of the bloom. For example, some bees have absurdly long tongues, others have short ones. All these bees (and their associated plants) are essential for a healthy ecosystem.

Examples of plants for specialist bees:

Trees and shrubs

  • New Jersey tea

  • Hollies

  • Willows

  • Blueberries

Honeybees are generalists that prefer to forage on one plant species at a time, so trees and mass plantings of perennials work well for them, but of course there need to be multiple species within a mile or so to feed them all year. The main source of food in the spring is trees, so the woods of Clifton do the work here. As those flowers finish, we need to provide summer and fall perennials. They prefer some species over others. Native species which are popular with them include:

Perennials

  • Blazing Star (Liatris species)

  • Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum species)

  • Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium species)

  • New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)

  • Goldenrods (Solidago species)

Trees and shrubs

  • Tulip Poplar

  • Maples

  • Oaks

  • Hazelnut

  • Redbud

  • Dogwoods

  • Birch

  • Magnolias

  • Sumacs

  • Black Locust

  • Buttonbush

  • Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)

  • Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)