by Suzy Freeman

I am often surprised by how frequently a customer asks me to show them plants to will attract butterflies, but doesn’t want them to attract bees. Any insect that comes with a barbed stinger on its backside, usually isn’t the first invited guest to a picnic. I suspect most folks are concerned that they, or someone in their household, might get stung. Being stung is certainly unpleasant and somewhat painful,  but did you know that when a honey bee stings anything, the action literally tears its body apart, and the bee dies? I’m sure they would prefer NOT stinging on any day. Bees ONLY sting when they feel threatened. Walking around and enjoying one’s flowers is not considered a threat to the bee. On the contrary, swatting at or sudden aggressive movements near a bee may cause it to give you a “warning” by jabbing at you with its body in flight (without actually stinging – honeybees), or by “buzzing” loudly around you (without stinging – bumble bees). By the way, male bumble bees don’t even have a stinger!

This blogger thinks that bees have been given a bad rap. Bees have so many beneficial traits! Did you know they pollinate about 30% of the human food supply? Foods that include such basics as tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, fruit trees, nut trees, and even fiber like cotton, and much more! Without their pollination, many of these foods would eventually just die out. Without bees, we would have very poor quality of coffee, cocoa, cabbage, onions, tomatoes and peppers. Lemons, pears, and cashews, seeds and clover, alfalfa grown to feed livestock depend heavily on bee pollination. AND, what kind of world would it be if we didn’t have honey for our morning toast?

Bees in the hive are a remarkably social organism, where every bee has her own task. Honey bees are also quite docile, and when approached slowly, one can observe them without ever wearing a bee suit. Did you know that beekeepers find it relaxing to observe their bees at the hive? Thank heavens for those guys, right?

Bees are one of the most valuable pollinators in the insect kingdom and if you wish to attract butterflies only ­– planting lovely specimens to bring them into your environment ­– you should accept that bees will come too.  Bees will take your pollinator garden as a great place for a “free lunch.” Your pollinator garden supports the survival of bees. Just remember that there is a way to “be around bees:” 1. No sudden movements; 2. Give them a little space when they are collecting nectar; and 3.  No swatting!

Here are some plants guaranteed to attract multiple pollinators to your garden:

  • Anise hyssop
  • Bee balm (monarda)
  • Butterfly weed
  • Butterfly bush
  • Coreopsis
  • Coneflower
  • Salvia
  • Asters
  • Veronica
  • Lavender
  • Marjoram
  • Basil
  • Rue
  • Sage

There are hundreds more options from which you can choose. For a look at a small pollinator garden, check out the demonstration tables in our Perennial section or stop in and ask for Suzy ­– I’d love to help you! And remember, Frazee Gardens has everything you need to get your pollinator garden started including soil, root stimulator, plants, pots, gloves, and shovels!

Suzy Freeman is a long-time gardener and home beekeeper for 6 years. She has been helping customers create beautiful homes for 3 years. Her favorite plants to attract pollinators are hyssop (agastache) and coneflowers (echinacea).

 

Suzy Freeman is a long-time gardener and home beekeeper for 6 years. She has been helping customers create beautiful homes for 3 years. Her favorite plants to attract pollinators are hyssop (agastache) and coneflowers (echinacea).

 

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