Many of you will already be aware that our bees are in trouble and that garden flowers can be a really important source of food for them. But its not always easy to work out which plants are best for them. There are quite a few lists of recommended plants and the RHS has developed a ‘plants for pollinator’ logo for plant producers to use on labels, but the trouble with lists is that they imply all those plants are equally valuable.
Tiny solitary bee on Helenium autumnale
To try and find out more about which plants attract the most bees, Rosi Rollings, a keen gardener and beekeeper, started doing some research five years ago and has now published her findings.
Her method is simple: from the lists of recommended plants, she chose 69 species and planted each in a block of one square meter then regularly counted a ‘snapshot’ of the bees that visited each planted block. All different species of bee were counted including some you might not normally spot in your garden like the tiny solitary bee in the picture above.
She concluded that both the number of bees at any time and the number of weeks that plant is flowering are important factors and combined average bees with length of flowering time to produce a rating.
Out of the 69 different bee-friendly garden plants tested, here the top 30 rated plants based on the data for 2015 and 2014:
Honey bee and solitary bee on Sedum spectabile
These findings also support recent research by the RHS that native plants do not attract more bees than non-native.
Rosi Rollings now runs an on-line plant nursery that specializes in ‘plants for bees’. For more details on the research go to http://www.rosybee.com/