Bees are critical members of our food chain. These buzzing backyard insects pollinate three-quarters of all fruits, nuts, and vegetables, but they are on the decline. Fortunately, of the 20,000 known bee species in the world, 4,000 are native to the US and there are many flowers you can plant in your own yard to support these critical species.
Scientists paired up with the Entomological Society of America to do some research on what plants bees prefer. They monitored more than a dozen species of bees across 100 different species of flowers in the Sierra Nevada region of California to see which varieties they preferred. Overall, quality of pollen was more important to the bees than variety of flower, but some species held distinct preferences for certain plants.
The yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) was most widely observed and loved the large-leaved lupine. Other popular plant types were A. urticifolia, a flowering plant in the mint family, Oregon checker-mallow (Sidalcea oregana), Alpine mountainbalm (Monardella odoratissima), tall fringed bluebells (Mertensia ciliate), and cobwebby hedge nettle (Stachys albens).
Plant and land restoration is one of the most effective solutions for supporting bee populations threatened by pesticides. If you’re looking to do some gardening and help out these fuzzy friends this spring, consider planting one of these many beautiful varieties of flowers to support these powerful pollinators!