Considering Bees – the SEEDS Pollinator Plant List
Published Friday, Dec 12, 2014
It cannot be overstated: Bees and other pollinators are some of the most important living things to food production, and therefore important to people.
One could argue that no other living organism currently in decline are more important to the health of humans than bees. Pollination is essential for the production of many fruits and vegetables. Without bees we would lose one out of three of the healthiest types of foods. Due to the ongoing degradation of the environment, crucial pollinator species are now in danger of extinction. Avoid harming the environment by not using plant killing chemicals (herbicides) and insect killing chemicals (pesticides). The use of chemical fertilizers also pollutes the environment and should be avoided.
There are many different types of bees in North America; some broad categories are Apis, Bombus, Halictus, Osima, and Megachile.
Honey Bees are not native to North America. Honey Bees are essential for the production of a number of products for people, including honey, bee wax, royal jelly, and venom for medicinal purposes.
Native Bees may live in colonies or may be solitary. Native bees are often better pollinators and are more important to native plant species than European honey bees.
Flowering plants provide bees with food both in the form of nectar (carbohydrate) and pollen (protein). Nectar is produced by flowering plants in order to attract bees and other pollinators. Adult honey bees drink nectar to sustain themselves and to produce honey which they eat over the winter. “Bee Bread” is used to feed young honey bees, it is a mixture of pollen, honey, and secretions from brood nurse bees. Solitary/ native bees use nectar and pollen in a similar way but do not produce honey.
There is little scientific research on which specific plant species provide the most benefit to bees, however SEEDS Intern George Maha and SEEDS Garden Manager Hilary Nichols have been working hard to find and continuously edit the SEEDS Pollinator Plant List . To find the most highly visited bee plants, SEEDS has researched reputable sources for frequent citations, interviewed local professionals, and made observations of plants in the area. It guides and provides feedback for those working to support the bees in the Piedmont of North Carolina.
The Pollinator Plants List includes perennials, herbs and shrubs, known to grow in the Piedmont of NC that are non-toxic, adaptable to various growing conditions, are most frequently cited as bee plants and observed to be highly visited by bees. The list contains plants for a variety of different bloom periods to help bees throughout the year. Many plants on the list bloom for a long period of time.
Annuals, biennials, and trees were not included on this list because they require more time and space to manage and the goal of the list is to make it as user friendly as possible. Other omissions include many fruits and vegetables that are already present in our garden. Some of these bee friendly fruits and vegetables are included on the list at the bottom of this page and could be used in addition to the SEEDS pollinator plant list.
The SEEDS pollinator plant list will be updated and the plants given ratings based on the frequency they are visited by bees. Come by and see our pollinator garden space and help us make observations.
Please use this community educational resource to make plant selections for your own garden and help to support pollinators in your area.
A partial list of fruits and vegetables that will be lost if bees become extinct:
- Acerola – used in Vitamin C supplements
- Adzuki Beans
- Black and Red Currants
- Black Eyed Peas
- Bok Choy (Chinese Cabbage)
- Brazil Nuts
- Brussels Sprouts
- Chili peppers, red peppers, bell peppers, green peppers
- Congo Beans
- Custard Apples
- Goa beans
- Green Beans
- Kidney Beans
- Kiwi Fruit
- Lima Beans
- Macadamia Nuts
- Mustard Seed
- Orchid Plants
- Palm Oil
- Passion Fruit
- Prickly Pear
- Rose Hips
- Star Apples
- Sunflower Oil
- Sword beans