Bees play a crucial role in pollinating many of our favorite foods and flowers. However, with the declining bee population, it’s more important than ever to plant flowers that provide essential nutrients to these vital pollinators. This Seasonal Flower Guide for Bee Nutrition will delve into the best seasonal flowers that not only beautify our gardens but also offer the necessary nutrition for bees.
- Importance of selecting bee-friendly flowers.
- Seasonal flowers that provide essential nutrients for bees.
- Benefits of incorporating these flowers into your garden.
Early Summer Bee Flowers
Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida)
An elegant beauty with fine, drooping petals, the pale purple coneflower is a bee favorite that also produces seeds much loved by finches. Blooming from June to July, its flowers will feed lots of bees and even attract butterflies.
Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
The bright, flattened heads of common yarrow are covered with tiny daisy flowers that bees favor. There are many beautiful varieties for the garden, such as the rich red ‘Strawberry Seduction’ and ‘Wonderful Wampee’, which has pink flowers that fade to nearly white.
Summer Bee Flowers
Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)
Nothing attracts and feeds bees like sunflowers. Their massive and prolific blooms come in shades of yellow, gold, red, and orange. Varieties like ‘Little Becka’ and ‘Big Smile’ are excellent choices for gardens.
Blue Giant Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)
The pretty spires of purple flowers produced by the giant hyssop become covered with bees. The hybrid Agastache ‘Blue Boa’ is an exceptional variety known for its beauty.
Horsemint (Monarda punctata)
Few garden perennials draw bees as efficiently as the long-blooming horsemint. Its unique pink to white bracted flowers become completely covered with pollinators.
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Popular for their beauty and resilience, all purple coneflowers are bee favorites. Varieties like ‘Dixie Belle’ and the super heavy blooming ‘Pica Bella’ are especially noteworthy.
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.)
A summer staple, black-eyed Susans are as beloved by bees as they are by gardeners. The dwarf ‘Little Goldstar’ is a particularly prolific bloomer.
Late-Summer and Fall Bee Flowers
Asters (Symphotrichum spp.)
The pinks, blues, and purples of late-summer and fall aster flowers are a delight to all bees. Varieties like ‘October Skies’ and ‘Bluebird’ are garden favorites.
Joe-Pye Weeds (Eutrochium spp.)
These mid-to late-summer bloomers produce big, fuzzy heads of purplish-red flowers filled with nectar and pollen. The garden variety Eutrochium purpureum ‘Little Red’ is especially notable.
Goldenrods (Solidago spp.)
Goldenrods become a buzzing mass when they open in late summer and fall. The dwarf forms ‘Golden Fleece’ and ‘Baby Gold’ are particularly garden-worthy.
Seasonal Flowers for Bee Nutrition
The Importance of Pollen Protein and Lipid Ratios
Bees play a pivotal role in pollination, ensuring the survival of many plant species and the production of food crops. The nutrition they derive from pollen is crucial for their health, growth, and reproduction. A recent study titled “Pollen Protein: Lipid Macronutrient Ratios May Guide Broad Patterns of Bee Species Floral Preferences” delves into the nutritional ecology of pollinators, providing insights into plant-pollinator interactions and the restoration of declining pollinator populations.
Pollinators and their Nutritional Needs: Bees obtain their protein and lipid nutrient intake from pollen. This intake is essential for larval growth and development, as well as adult health and reproduction. The study revealed that pollen protein to lipid ratios (P:L) influence bumble bee foraging preferences among pollen host-plant species. These preferred ratios are linked to bumble bee colony health and fitness.
Key Findings on Pollen Nutrition
- Variability in Pollen Quality: Plant species vary widely in pollen quality, including protein concentration, amino acid composition, lipid concentration, fatty acid profiles, and secondary metabolites. This variability affects bee health, and bees must choose between host plants to obtain appropriate pollen nutrition.
- Protein and Lipid Balance: While the protein content of pollen is vital for bee health, recent studies have highlighted lipids as a significant influence on bee foraging and health. The specific composition of pollen lipids may determine host-plant choice and bee-flower interactions. Bees forage for pollen to meet both their protein and lipid needs, considering these macronutrients together as potential drivers of bee foraging preferences.
- Bumble Bees and Pollen Foraging: Research on bumble bees has shown that they consider pollen as a multidimensional nutritional resource. They have optimal concentrations and ratios of nutrients, termed “intake targets”, for growth, development, and reproduction. As pollen is their primary source of protein and lipids, bees may assess pollen quality and balance pollen nutritional intake via ratios of proteins and lipids.
Implications for Bee Conservation
Declines in the abundance and diversity of flowering plant species generate nutritional stressors for bees, driving population declines of wild and managed bee species worldwide. There is increasing interest in defining the nutritional needs of bee species and using this information to optimize planting schemes that support bee communities. Nutritional ecology theory can offer a new perspective on plant-pollinator interactions beneficial for conservation.
Understanding the complex connections between the nutritional resources that plants provide and the nutritional needs of bees reveals insights into bee-flower symbioses, coevolution, and the assembly and stability of plant-pollinator communities.
Recommendations for Bee Nutrition
- Diversify Planting Schemes: To support pollinators, stakeholders should develop planting schemes that offer a diverse range of pollen with varying protein to lipid ratios. This diversity ensures that bees can access the nutrition they need throughout different stages of their lifecycle.
- Promote Native Plants: Native plants are more likely to provide the right balance of nutrients for local bee species. The Xerces Society offers a list of recommended native plants that are highly attractive to pollinators.
- Research and Monitoring: Continuous research and monitoring are essential to understand the changing nutritional needs of bees and the impact of environmental factors on plant-pollinator interactions.
The Role of Flowers in Bee Nutrition
Nutritional Value of Flowers for Bees
Flowers are the primary source of nutrition for bees, providing them with essential nutrients like nectar and pollen. Nectar is a sugary liquid that supplies bees with energy, while pollen provides proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients necessary for bee growth and reproduction.
- Nectar: This sugary substance is the primary energy source for bees. It fuels their daily activities and is also stored and transformed into honey for long-term use.
- Pollen: Rich in proteins, fats, and other nutrients, pollen is crucial for bee larvae’s growth and development. Adult bees also consume pollen to replenish their protein reserves.
Seasonal Variations in Flower Nutrition
The nutritional content of flowers can vary based on the season. Some flowers bloom in specific seasons, offering unique nutritional profiles that cater to the needs of bees during that time.
- Spring: Early bloomers like crocuses, snowdrops, and willows provide bees with the first sources of nectar and pollen after winter. These flowers help kickstart the bee colony’s growth for the year.
- Summer: This season offers a plethora of flowers, including lavender, sunflowers, and black-eyed Susans. These flowers provide abundant nectar and pollen, supporting the peak activity of bee colonies.
- Fall: As the temperature starts to drop, flowers like goldenrods and asters become crucial. They offer the last significant sources of nectar and pollen before winter, helping bees stock up for the cold months.
For a deeper dive into the world of bees and their fascinating behaviors, consider reading about bee communication and the significance of the waggle dance. Additionally, understanding the differences and similarities between honeybees and bumblebees can offer insights into their unique nutritional needs and preferences.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are flowers essential for bees?
Flowers provide bees with nectar and pollen, which are their primary sources of energy and nutrition. Without flowers, bees would lack the necessary nutrients to survive, reproduce, and support their colonies.
How do bees choose which flowers to visit?
Bees are attracted to flowers based on their color, scent, shape, and the quality and quantity of nectar and pollen they offer. They tend to prefer flowers that provide them with the most nutritional value.
Can bees survive without flowers?
No, bees rely on flowers for their nutritional needs. Without flowers, bees would not have access to the essential nutrients they require for survival.
Flowers play an indispensable role in supporting bee populations by providing them with vital nutrients. By understanding the nutritional needs of bees and the value of seasonal flowers, we can make informed choices in our gardens and landscapes to support these essential pollinators. As bees face numerous challenges, from habitat loss to diseases, every effort to bolster their nutrition can make a significant difference in their survival and well-being.