Bees pollinating holy basil
If you’re like us, you’re worried about pollinators—we need them for production of about 35% of global crops by volume and over 85% of the world’s flowering plants, and many pollinator species are in decline or at risk of extinction. Four species of bumble bees native to America are in rapid decline; the rusty-patched bumble bee, for example, has disappeared from almost 90% of its historic range.
While controversy abounds about the root causes of the bee die-offs and disappearances, it’s becoming clear that human behavior, especially habitat loss, climate change and pesticide use are to blame. Regardless of the cause, it’s up to all of us to protect them, and the precious pollination services they provide, for generations to come. High Mowing is pleased to offer a variety of flowers that provide much-needed food for bees and butterflies, while making our own landscapes more beautiful, productive and ecologically diverse. By planting all 5 of these flowers, you’ll be providing food for all 11 types of native bees, plus honey bees!
1. Beeline Pollinator Mix
We specially formulated this mix just for native pollinators, and boy does it buzz when in bloom! Featuring purple-flowered Phacelia, sunflowers, cosmos, and a variety of herbs and other flowers, this mix provides a diverse mix of nectar and pollen sources over a long season.
Bee species supported: Bumble Bee, Digger Bee, Large Carpenter Bee, Small Carpenter Bee, Leafcutter Bee, Mason Bee, Sweat Bee, Plasterer Bee, Andrenid (Miner) Bee, Honey Bee
Sunflowers are pollinator superheroes, for many reasons – they are tall and brightly colored for easy visibility from a distance; they produce abundant sources of both pollen and nectar; their broad, flat faces make it easy for butterflies and other large-winged insects to land on them (sort of like a helipad); and their lush foliage provides an excellent food source for butterfly caterpillars. There are, however, a few tips that can boost the benefits of planting sunflowers:
- Plant in groups rather than scattering them all over; this way it is easier for pollinators to find them and gather food efficiently
- Plant them in a place protected from wind; both the plants and pollinators enjoy a calm, protected area
- Plant several different varieties to provide a continuous supply of flowers from late summer to fall; we recommend Evening Colors Blend, Velvet Queen, Mammoth, Soraya
Bee species supported: Bumble Bee, Digger Bee, Large Carpenter Bee, Small Carpenter Bee, Leafcutter Bee, Sweat Bee, Plasterer Bee, Andrenid (Miner) Bee, Honey Bee
Diminutive and low-growing though it may be, thyme has wonderful properties for humans, as a culinary and medicinal herb, and for the bees that feed on it. There are lots of other advantages to planting thyme as well – it’s an easy, low-maintenance perennial, it’s drought-tolerant, it spreads over time (but not aggressively), and its white flowers and silvery foliage are attractive planted along rock walls, patios and herb gardens. It also provides important food for some of the picky eaters like Mason and Yellow-faced bees.
Bee species supported: Bumble Bee, Digger Bee, Mason Bee, Sweat Bee, Yellow-faced Bee
Like all members of the mint or Lamiaceae family (which includes many bee favorites such as basil, lemon balm, oregano, sage and thyme) catnip is aromatic, flowers over a very long season, and is simply loaded with the characteristic red-orange pollen that bees love. It’s also a very hardy perennial, surviving the coldest of winters with ease, and has a more restrained growth habit than true mints for a lovely ornamental, medicinal, tea and insectary plant.
Bee species supported: Bumble Bee, Digger Bee, Mason Bee
5. Squash, Pumpkins & Gourds
In order to provide a meal for everyone, you’ll need to plant some cucurbits—squash, pumpkins, cucumbers or gourds. The small, abundant squash bees that pollinate virtually every single cucumber, zucchini or pumpkin (and are often found sleeping inside the large yellow flowers) depend exclusively on this family of plants for food, and as wild habitat is eliminated, wild sources also become more limited. And of course, planting cucurbits is also a great way to provide food for yourself as well.
Bee species supported: Large Carpenter Bee, Squash Bee
For more information, check out these great Ecoregional Planting Guides from the Pollinator Partnership.