In a recent article from gardenbetty.com, Linda Ly listed the best flowers to grow for bees. She identified them as the ‘Foolproof Five’. Much to my delight, I’ve been growing each of them for many years and agree with her that they are seasonal favorites for the bees. They can be found growing in my raised beds, in containers and in ground when more space is needed. Most of them receive at least four to five hours of morning to early afternoon sun and then dappled shade for the remainder of the day. Before sharing the list, let’s answer a few very important questions:
Do the colors of the flowers make a difference when attracting pollinators?
Bees have amazing eyesight which gives them the ability to see color much faster than humans. Their color vision is the fastest in the animal world – five times faster than humans. Every bee has two large compound eyes and three ocelli giving them trichromatic eyesight. Humans base their color combinations on red, blue and green while bees base their colors on ultraviolet light, blue and green.
Bees cannot see the color red, but they can see reddish wavelengths such as yellow and orange. They can also see blue-green, blue, violet and “bee’s purple”, a combination of yellow and ultraviolet light. According to scientific studies, the most likely colors to attract bees are purple, violet and blue. Yellow is also a favorite color for bees. Dark colors like red, brown and black make them aggressive.
What is it about the color blue that bees love?
The simple answer is that flowers in the violet-blue range produce the highest volumes of nectar. Herbaceous plants, shrubs and trees generate a blue or (UV) ultraviolet scattering effect. Since bees see blue spectrum colors best, their foraging trips often take them to their preferred nectar-and-pollen-rich plants within this range.
Is color the only deciding factor for bees to select flowers?
Bees do not depend upon color for identifying flowers to collect pollen and nectar. For bees, flowers are identified by shape more than the bright color. Simple flower shapes with easily accessible centers are most desirable. Single flowers with open petals are a bee favorite.
Flat flowers that they can land and walk on are also preferred.
If you’re ready to start planting, here’s a look at the top five:
Borage (Borago officinalis)
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Coneflower (Echinacea spp.)
Mint Family (Lamiaceae) Basil, Lavender, Varieties of Mint, Oregano, Salvia, Thyme and More
For more information, including a lengthy list of flowers, herbs shrubs and trees for attracting pollinators go to: https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and type in Central Texas Bee-Friendly Plants – Texas A&M University
For a yummy and colorful honey treat try Yogurt Parfait with Thyme Honey and Fruit. Serve it for breakfast, brunch or as a stunning dessert. Thyme honey is a variety of monofloral honey made from the nectar and pollen of thyme flowers. Its unique flavor profile and intense taste make it a beautiful compliment to the creaminess of the yogurt layered with crunchy bites of fresh fruit and granola. The collecting season for this highly aromatic honey is only a few weeks in the summer – from late June to August.
Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener, Class of 2008
Great article Linda! Thanks!
Thank you so much for all your hard work on educating us on our beautiful BEES!!! Fantastic!!!
Where do you buy thyme honey???
I love thyme!!
Hi, Patty. You can find it online. Linda told me about this company-Myland Greek Honey with Thyme.