Best plants for bees: 5yr study

Summary of findings

The following findings are based on 7 years of hunting for the best plants and 5 years for quantification analysis. Each year has added to my understanding of the subject but most of the findings have stayed very consistent from the first year.

·      The primary finding is that the number of bees each plant attracts varies hugely. Some attract surprisingly few, even supposedly ‘bee-friendly’ plants.  This variation is significant for anyone wanting to maximize the amount of bee-food any area of land can provide.

·      Weather has a major impact on both bees and plants causing them to thrive much more in some years than others. Yet, both are also very resilient and how attractive a plant is to bees should not be judged on a single year let alone a single observation.

·      Both native and non-native plants are equally attractive to bees. Except where there is some unique inter-dependency, most bees show no favoritism to native plants and seek food where they can access it.

·      Healthy plants with more flowers attract more bees. The old gardeners’ adage of ‘right plant for the right place’ is important for both a sustainable garden and more bee-food

·      Different plants attract different bees and so to ensure that food is supplied to a wide range of bees its best to have a wide range of flowers available. Although plant structure has a bearing on which plants each bee prefers, it is not the only factor.

The chart below provides a summary of the cumulative results for the 5 years of data showing which plants attract the most bees and of which kind. The values have been rationalised to adjust for the dominance of honey bees in the sample. We also show the same data seperately for solitary bees, bumblebees and honeybees.

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