In Gardening

How to Plant Bee and Butterfly Friendly Plants in Your Garden

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A problem that has been growing in the minds of gardeners for a while now is the safety of the bees and butterflies that help gardens grow strong. These insects require flowering plants in order to survive and they help us survive by pollinating these plants, including our food.

If you are also concerned about these creatures, you should consider planting more bee and butterfly plants in your garden. Not only will the plants help the insects but many of them are incredibly beautiful.

How do You Make a Bee and Butterfly Garden

Fortunately, it isn’t difficult to make your garden more friendly to pollinators. To make your garden into a real life Eden, start with the right plants and move toward water and shelter sources.

Plant Bee and Butterfly Friendly Flowers

  • Alium
  • Geranium
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Bee Balm
  • Sage
  • Lavender

Most flowering plants are perfect for bees and butterflies. If you are open to it, and short on time, you can sprinkle mixed perennial seeds around your garden that will provide a varied and tantalizing food source for pollinators.

You can also plant herbs and flowering shrubs as a foundation for your garden. If you are looking for a structured style, group together several of the same plant so that they provide not only structure but a more natural look.

Add in Water Sources

Just like humans, bees and butterflies get tired as they fly around and do their pollinating. If you provide them a space to land and get a drink, they will be more likely to stick around in your garden beds.

The simplest method of providing water to insects is to set out a shallow bowl with marbles in the bottom. Fill the bowl with water just until the marbles barely stick out of the water. This way, insects can land on the marbles and get a drink but there isn’t so much water that mosquitoes can breed.

bees drinking water

Provide some Shelter

Small areas of shelter will also help bees and butterflies plant themselves in your garden for a while. If you glue a bundle of hollow straws or sticks together, it makes an excellent bee shelter for mason bees. 

Small boxes or birdhouses make excellent areas for bee hives as well. The added bonus is obviously that these make excellent birdhouses as well and you can attract birds to your garden this way.

For butterflies, they need a shelter that looks similar to a birdhouse but requires narrow slits that birds can’t get into. This way the butterflies can rest away from other predators.

Why are Bees, Butterflies and Other Pollinators Important

Bee and butterfly plants are necessary because of the importance pollinators play in the world. Without bees, butterflies, and birds, most of the plants we have would either not pollinate as well or wouldn’t pollinate at all.

Effect on Food Crops

food crops

The most important effect of pollinators from a human standpoint is the importance for food crops. There is absolutely no way that the global population, even as it stands, could be fed without the help of pollinators. With the population only increasing, the situation would be hopeless.

Pollination of Flowers

There are many modern flowers that require pollinators in order to survive, thrive, and spread. Without the help of bees and butterflies, plants would need to be pollinated by hand. That is a human would have to move the pollen from one plant to the next. Or they would need to be wind pollinated, which isn’t as effective. Thousands of plant species would die off.

Do Butterfly Plants Attract Bees too

The great news is that, for the most part, the same plants attract all pollinators. So you may see a plant advertised as a “butterfly attractor” but that just means that butterflies find it particularly attractive. There is no reason why bees may not like it as well. Of course, the more varied your plantings are, the more all pollinators will like them.

What are Some Perennial Plants for Bees and Butterflies

  • Coneflower (Echinacea)
  • Coreopsis
  • Joe Pye Weed
  • Thrift
  • Speedwell
  • Spiderwort
  • Dandelions
  • Lavender
  • Cosmos
  • Verbena
  • Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
  • Anise Hyssop
  • Aster
  • Yarrow
  • Phlox
  • Foxgloves
  • Clover
  • Catmint
  • Perennial Basil
  • Sedum/Stonecrop
  • Milkweed
  • Bee Balm
  • Goldenrod
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Evening Primrose
  • Violets
  • Daisy
  • Borage
  • Oregano
  • Buttonbush

What are Some Annual Bee and Butterfly Plants

  • Mint
  • Lemonbalm
  • Penstamon
  • Sunflower
  • Salvia
  • Lobelia
  • Cilantro
  • Zinnia
  • Cosmos
  • Petunia
  • Calendula
  • Osteospernum
  • Dill
  • Basil
  • Alyssum
  • Pansy
  • Marigold
  • Pentas

What are the Most Important Pollinators in Your Garden

It is impossible for a list to be made of all the important pollinators in the garden. But there are a few key important players that you should consider when you are planning your garden. Bees, birds, and butterflies all play a role in the garden.

Honey Bees

honey bee

Honey bees are some of the most important pollinators for the international food chain and for the local home garden. They are incredibly efficient at moving pollen from one flower to another and they are quite happy to visit hundreds of flowers a day. 

Better yet, honey bees form swarms that have tens of thousands of bees that can work several acres a day. So not only are they an efficient pollen mover but the workforce can be enormous.

Bumblebees

bumblebee

The humble bumblebee is also an incredible pollinator in the garden. These bees can move a ton of pollen on their large frames. While they can’t visit quite the number of flowers that other pollinators can, the sheer amount of pollen their fuzzy frames carry make them important.

Bumblebees tend to live in very small groups so they are also less efficient from that perspective compared to other pollinators. The best part about bumblebees is that they have playful and gentle personalities. You have to really threaten them to get stung by one.

Eastern Carpenter Bees

carpenter bee

Eastern carpenter bees don’t look or behave nearly as friendly as the honey bee or bumblebee. However, they are easier to “keep” in your garden. They really just need flowers, small crevices to shelter in, and a water source. And they don’t swarm, so if you’re worried about stings to your family, it’s less of a concern.

Hummingbirds

hummingbird

One of the most beautiful birds to attract to your garden, and one of the most helpful from a pollination perspective, is the hummingbird. These small, beautiful birds will land on and feed from several hundred flowers a day. They are particularly attracted to red flowers.

Butterflies

butterfly

As a whole, butterflies are not the most efficient pollinators in the garden. But they are still incredibly important and they play a major role in the garden ecosystem in other manners. As they travel from flower to flower, butterflies still spread pollen around and help plants reproduce.

Will You get Stung More when Bee and Butterfly Plants are in Your Yard

Not really, no! Just as in other gardens, the way to avoid bee stings is not to swat at them and ignore them. For the most part, bees don’t want to argue with you if you don’t want to argue with them. Of course, that doesn’t mean that wasps won’t sting you.

Biggest Differences Between Bees and Wasps

Wasps are great pollinators, just like bees. However, they are a bit nastier by nature and they don’t need as much provocation in order to decide a sting is worth it. There are several major differences between bees and wasps. If you are afraid of getting stung, pause for just a moment and see which insect you are dealing with so that you don’t treat it unfairly.

Bees and wasps are different in behavior, shape, and color

Behavior and Attitude

The first major difference between most bees and wasps is their general attitude. Most bees can really be described as “friendly.” They may fly into you by accident but, for the most part, they just bounce off and fly away. Bees may be curious and walk around on your arm to inspect you but will not harm you if you don’t threaten them.

Wasps are prickly and do not appreciate your attention. For the most part, if they interact with people, it’s just because they want whatever food you’re eating. Their version of a threat is much different than a bee. Sometimes, even if you tense up your limb, the wasp may consider it enough of a threat to sting.

Body Shape

Body shape is an excellent method of telling bees and wasps apart. Bees are typically bulky and round in their overall body shape. Wasps generally have a much more defined waist and a narrower overall shape.

bee vs wasp

Color

While it isn’t a hard and fast rule, the colors of bees tend to be muddier with brown and a golden yellow being common. This contrasts with wasps that typically have bright yellow and black. Of course, there are exceptions in both insects that break this rule. This is kind of a last resort to identify if you are looking at a bee or wasp.

How Long will it Take to Attract Bees and Butterflies

You will be amazed how quickly after you put in bee and butterfly plants that the insects will find them and start to pollinate your garden. Typically, within just a few days of blooms appearing, you will start to notice a few insects at a time come in. As time goes on, your garden will become a literal hive of activity.

How do Insecticides Affect Bee and Butterfly Plants

dead bee

The biggest concern for bees and butterflies in the garden are the insecticides that homeowners and farmers use. Unfortunately, most of these insecticides do not distinguish good insects compared to bad insects.

This means that good garden pollinators are injured and killed by insecticides quite easily. You can minimize the effects of insecticides by only using them where necessary or trying to use more specific chemicals. And yes, even “organic” insecticides can harm good garden pollinators.

Neonicitinoids

The worst insecticides used in gardens are neonicotinoids, or “neonics” for short. These pesticides became infamous for causing colony collapse in honey bee hives which result in confused and dead bees overwhelming the hive. Essentially, the entire hive dies out within hours.

While the neonics are one of the worst for honey bees, and therefore they’ve received the most media attention, you should be aware that all insecticides will harm pollinators. Even birds will be affected by these chemicals, even though the chemical isn’t designed to hurt them. 

Conclusion

these pollinators by not treating your plants with broad spectrum insecticides. Work hard to incorporate organic gardening techniques and treat the pollinators in your yard as garden helpers and not something to be feared.