A very nice article I read today confirms something I observed last year: native pollinators prefer native flowers. Since there’s so many different kinds, from bees to syrphid flies, you need many different flowers over the course of the seasons to feed them. You can find lists of suggested plants, but the easy way is to let even the weeds flower and see who turns up. Or at least, that’s what I did last year.
So this is my list so far, of plants that are the biggest hits with pollinators in my little corner of Massachusetts:
- Daisy Fleabane
- St. John’s Wort
- Veronica Spicata
- Virginia Creeper
- Purple Coneflowers
- Heart-Leaved Aster
The Veronica is not a native plant, but it feeds little bees all summer. And there’s another exception staring right at you: Grape hyacinth. With all the tulips and daffodils wide open all over the place, it’s the grape hyacinths I see bees visiting. Maybe they’re not native, but the bumblebees love it.
2 thoughts on “Feed your bees”
Flowers are the weapons in a biological cold war being waged by plants.
It’s advantageous for a plant to have a specific pollinating animal. That way, the animal is sure to carry the pollen from one flower to a flower of the same species, and not of some other species.
On the other hand, it’s more advantageous to the animal to not be tied to a particular flower. That way, it won’t starve to death when that flower isn’t available.
Coevolution is one of those really strange and wonderful things.
The more I learn about the coevolution of flowering plants and pollinators, the more I see every possible variant of the relationship played out. There are orchids that fiendishly exploit bees. There are plants with utterly faithful and exclusive pollinators. There are grasses and trees relying on the wind. Every strategy has a place and a time where it’s the best thing. It really is wonderful.
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