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Helping to Feed Honey Bees and Other Pollinators

Featured Article

By Glynn Young
Online Communications Team

Almost two years ago, I happened to mention to Jerry Hayes, business director for Beeologics, that I was doing some home garden renovation.

“Monarda,” he replied.

“What?” I asked.

Monarda didyma

Monarda didyma

“Monarda, he repeated. “Plant some. It’s flourishes in Missouri and it’s great for honey bees, not to mention other pollinators.”

Jerry knows what he’s talking about, so I went to the local nursery a few blocks form my house and asked for Monarda. They had it. I bought two plants in six-inch pots.

Today I have a five-foot section of Monarda that bursts into a mass of light purple flowers in late spring and early summer and usually lasts for several weeks. At their flowering peak, the plants seem to be in constant motion, with dozens of bees buzzing about.

I’ve identified five types of bees buzzing around the Monarda: two types of bumble bees, the honey bee, and two miniature bees that at first I thought were gnats. But they were bees, and two different kinds. (Yes, I’ve been out in the yard with a magnifying glass.)

contentBeeImgI’ve also planted coneflowers, and the pollinators seem to like them, too. I’m planning more bee-friendly plants for this spring.

As you make plans for your own home garden, consider adding some plants that provide nutrition for honey bees and other pollinators. According to the Pollinator Partnership, which among other activities sponsors the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, the following plants work well in any area of North America:

Lavandula spp. (Lavender)
Rosemarinus officinalis (Rosemary)
Salvia spp. (Sage)
Echinacea spp. (Coneflower)
Helianthus spp. (Sunflower)
Cercis spp. (Redbud)
Nepeta spp. (Catnip)
Penstemon spp. (Penstemon)
Stachys spp. (Lamb’s ears)
Verbena spp. (Verbena)
Phacelia spp. (Bells or Phacelia)
Aster spp. (Aster)
Rudbeckia spp. (Black-eyed Susan)
Origanum spp. (Oregano)
Achilliea millefolium (Yarrow)

Even better, if you want to tailor your plantings to those plants that work well in your region, the Pollinator Partnership has a neat little search tool – just plug in your zip code and it will show you what “ecoregion” you’re part of it and provide a guide (pdf format) that you can download for free. I discovered I’m in the Eastern Broadleaf Forest Province, and the guide contains more information than I could have imagined. You can access the page here.

And while I was unaware of anyone in my area raising bees, I can unequivocally tell you that if you plant bee-friendly flowers, the pollinators will come.

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