Different bees, different needs – Part 1
When it comes to bees we distinguish bumblebees, honeybees, solitary bees and cuckoo bees. There are over 350 bee species in the Netherlands and the UK depending a bit on where you live. The more north you live, the fewer bee species you will find. The southern coast and Surrey in the UK are richest in bees.
Now when you want to grow plants for bees, please consider the following: often the smaller the bee, the shorter the tongue. Some bumblebees have really long tongues: bombus hortorum has a tongue length of 12.5 mm compared to 6.4mm for Bombus jonellus. Nectar deep within flowers can simply not be reached by smaller bees with smaller tongues. As their stomachs are also smaller, they are satisfied with a zip wheras the larger bees would not bother to visit flowers for a tiny amount of nectar. Bees have evolved with the flowers.
It is fascinating to study this in your own garden and this blog may help you a little bit.
To begin with: most bedding plants are absolutely useless for bees and so are most with double flowers.
One group of plants which is frequently visitited by bees are the yellow composites and in my garden I am starting to grow both hawkbits and cat’s-ears to see if they sort any effect. Below corn marigold with a leafcutter bee. The very large Daisy family attracts many Andrena bees and the smaller Lasioglossum. If you want to attract many bees to your garden, you can consider growing tansy and one particular bee is associated with this plant: Colletes daviesanus.
Here below a picture of a young tansy plant. They grow vigorously but are great for bees. Tansy will also attract the lovely and very small Heriades truncorum and other bees of the Colletes family, some Andrena and Lasioglossum.
If you want to attract bumblebees and honeybees you are fine with the labiates family which include many herbs such as rosemary, marjoram, sage, lavender and catmint. These can also be used in the kitchen as well. Below meadow clary, salvia pratensis with reseda lutea in the back. Meadow clary is predominantly a bumblebee plant in my garden. Marjoram is particularly good as its nectar contains a lot of sugar, up to 70%; germander (teucrium) is also quite a good plant.
Fruit trees such as apple and pear are great if you want to attract Andrena and Osmia Rufa. They are excellent pollinators and my young apple trees have all been pollinated thanks to these bees. I saw the females gather pollen and taking that back to their nest in the bee house that I installed for them. Below the white flowers of the pear tree and below that, a picture of a very young apple tree.
Next time, I will tell you a bit more about other plants and their pollinators.