I’ve been following ‘our’ bees around – and keeping track of the variety of plants they use for nectar on our half acre of property. See below for my list and photos. The biggest takeaway for homeowners (and commercial growers) is:
VARIETY IS KEY
I talked to a local beekeeper (and live bee remover) here in Southern California, Brian Romberg of Brian’s Living Bees, and variety was his primary message. “Eucalyptus, pepper trees, the vegetables you plant – they’re all important for bees. If it draws hummingbirds, it will attract bees,” he said. Both natives and non-natives are important.
Other major points:
- Longest Longevity: Brian’s best two plants because of their longevity are lavender and rosemary – “If you have lavender or rosemary you’ll have bees around because those bloom for long periods of time.” We’ve noticed you can also plant different varieties of ceanothus and sages (salvias) that have different blooming times. For example, black sage blooms started blooming in February and now (May) the Cleveland sage is at its peak.
- Avoid pesticide use, especially on flowering plants. Regardless of what a pest person says or the hardware store employee – pesticides kill bees (and other helpful insects along with the ones you’re trying to eradicate)
- Plant lists: A great internet resource to check on good plants for your area is the Xerces Society website, and their plant lists.
Below is a six month log of the wide variety of plants/trees I’ve witnessed bees getting nectar here in Southern CA:
December – rosemary, loquat
January – rosemary, loquat, manzanita
February – rosemary, ceanothus & magnolia (blooming earlier than normal), viburnum tinus (laurestine), black sage, bush mallow
March – ceanothus, salvias (black, Cleveland), bush mallow, lavender, rosemary, fremontia
April – wisteria, prunus (ornamental cherry) nevin’s barberi, salvias (Cleveland sage, black), fremontia, lavender, pride of madeira, sugarbush, nevin’s barberi, citrus (orange), Carolina Cherry (prunus caroliniana or wild mock orange),
May – pride of madeira, salvias (Cleveland sage, black sage), orange, paloverde (Desert Museum), pyrochantha, privet (ligustrum ovalifolium), lavender, wisteria, bush mallow, matilija poppy
Below are photos in the order they bloomed:
For more information:
A Book of Bees: And How to Keep Them by Sue Hubbell – great book on a woman’s beekeeping business and way of life in the Ozarks
Research showing the benefit of native plants: Bee Research Shows Benefit of Native Plants, Wild bees (Penn State U)
Pesticides: Research Review on the negative effect of pesticides (neonicotinoids) on bees.