Save the bees! Since the 1990s, apiarists have been marking a mysterious decline in their bee populations, most likely attributed to rising global temperatures and increased use of conventional pesticides, which either outright kill or harm bees by accident. If you work around the central Indiana area like me, and you or your customers are looking to spruce up their garden to help save these vital creatures, keep reading for some suggested plants that will keep the yellow guys happy all year.
Trees provide both nectar and pollen, part of a healthy balanced bee diet. I’ve provided a list of a few great tree species that also look fantastic. I’ve made sure that they’re all native to Indiana as well, which helps the bees feel at home, as well as make it easier on the environment and owner due to the lower maintenance cost and strength against plant-borne diseases. I recommend planting these further away from the garden, as their size can typically take up too much space. Or, use one as a centerpiece! Up to you.
- Elm – Native, Pollen bearing tree.
- Common Hackberry – Native, Pollen and Nectar bearing tree.
- Catalpa – Native, Pollen and Nectar bearing tree.
- American Mountain Ash – Native, Pollen bearing tree.
- Sassafras – A favorite in my backyard. Native, Pollen and Nectar bearing tree.
- Black Locust – Native, Pollen and Nectar bearing tree. Be careful, this species has invasive properties, so check to make sure this is right for you. But it does look pretty!
Can’t forget shrubs. Not as colorful or vibrant as a blooming flower or tree, but the greenery and utility are very important. I recommend placing them at the back of your garden, perhaps lining a fence or wall. Again, I’ve chosen plants that are native and provide a great assortment of pollen and nectar.
- Button Bush – Native, Nectar bearing bush.
- Pussy Willow – Native, Nectar and Pollen bearing shrub.
- Serviceberry – Also known as Amelanchier. Native, Nectar bearing bush. Enjoy the berries it produces raw! They’re safe.
- Holly – Evergreen producer of Nectar and Pollen.
- Blackberry and Raspberry – Can’t go wrong with my favorite berries. Nectar and Pollen bearers.
Now we’re at the best part. People love flowers. Bees love flowers. Landscapers love giving people, and bees, flowers. It’s an unprecedented win-win-win. Let’s get started on a shortlist of the best native plants for bees and aesthetics.
- Aster (Smooth, New England) – Native purple flower bearing both Nectar and Pollen. Blooms in September.
- Anise Hyssop – Native purple herb that provides Nectar. Blooms in July.
- Digitalis/Foxglove – Purple fingered native plant that provides Nectar. Blooms in June.
- Boneset (Joe-Pye, Snakeroot) – Native white herb that bears Nectar and Pollen. Blooms in August-September.
- Black/Brown-Eyed Susan – Native yellow flower that bears Nectar.
- Hyacinth – Multi-colored flower that gives Nectar and Pollen. Blooms in April.
- Goldenrod – Native, yellow flower that bears Nectar and Pollen. Blooms September-October.
- Chives – Nectar and Pollen bearing plant. Blooms May through September.
Bees are extremely complex beings. Their systems and operations inside and out of the hive are still being figured out. Their diet is completely based on the environment they live in, and they take what they get. The honey they produce is obviously affected by the nectars and pollens they collect. I don’t know about you, but finding new types of honey is a fun side project… If not really expensive sometimes. Either way, when you scratch the bees backs, they’ll scratch yours, keeping your gardens de-pollenated and maybe even giving you some nice honey as a thanks.