Unfortunately, the loss of grasslands, diseases with nonnative bee species and climate change are dramatically impacting both the abundance of bees and the geographic range our bees need to survives.
About 42 of the more than 850 species of bees in Canada are bumblebees. Recently, a team of researchers at York University found that the American bumblebee, in particular, was under extreme distress. Over the past 10 years, its territory has drastically declined by about 70 per cent. Their numbers fell by 89 per cent compared to historical data collected from 1907 to 2006. The species is in very real danger of “imminent
extinction” from Canada.1
We need our bees. Without them, how will our crops, fruits and vegetables—not to mention our trees, shrubs and flowers—get pollinated? Left unchecked, the problem is huge, with far reaching consequences for our planet. Yet, this is one problem that we absolutely can do something about in very practical ways.
Plant a Bee Garden
One way of the best ways to support all types of bees is to plant a bee garden with flowers that will attract and feed them all year long. There are literally thousands of varieties that bees love. Planting multiple flower varieties offers bees a much longer period in which to feed and builds healthier plant and insect communities and healthier soil, too.
Become a Guerrilla Gardener
If you are stuck for space to plant where you live, why not take a packet of wildflower or sunflower seeds to plant on your next hiking adventure along nature trails or vacant lots. Get your kids involved in a ‘Planting for Bees’ project at their schools. Plant flower seeds around trees in boulevards and parks. Invest in a nearby garden allotment in your neighbourhood. Honeybees, bumblebees—and other insects—will be so grateful!
My Bee Favourite Flowers
Here are a few of my favourite flowers to plant for bees. I have selected flowers that are suited to our West Coast climate. They are hardy, easy to grow, with a longer-lasting bloom. These are bee-friendly plants that can be grown in containers, raised beds or yards to attract pollinators. Some are edible too!
Plant in spring. Glorious magnet for wild and domestic bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators. Height to 70cm (27″).
Super easy to grow, good in containers, and it even produces edible flowers. Tear off some of the golden orange and yellow flowers to sprinkle over summer salads. Calendula is also attractive to butterflies and other beneficial insects. Height to 60cm (24″).
Borage, Star Flower
Hardy, annual and long-flowering perennial varieties with edible flowers. Starts as pink and changes colour to blue. Appealing, mild cucumber taste. Grows in containers or raised beds to about 60cm (24″) tall. May spread in the right soil and light conditions.
False Queen Anne’s Lace
A beautiful, easy grow annual, particularly useful in companion planting. It’s a natural scavenger to eliminate caterpillars, aphids, and other garden pests.. Height to 50cm (20″).
Cornflowers, Bachelor Buttons
So easy to grow. Produces edible, intensely blue flowers on individual stems that grow to around 90cm (36″) tall. They dry well for fall arrangements and create a great show of summer flowers in pots or gardens.
Produces delicious, onion-flavoured leaves and a globe-shaped cluster of edible pink flowers that attract all kinds of bees. Extremely versatile.
Easy to maintain and generally foolproof. Remove spent flowers and the plants will continue to bloom all summer.
Cardoon was the original artichoke and produces edible stalks and stunning purple flowers. Grows to 1.2-2m (4-6′) tall, so plant it near the back of the garden.
Echinacea, Purple Coneflower
These long-lasting blooms make excellent cut flowers and are attractive to bees, hover flies, and other beneficial
pollinators and predators. A wonderful flower for cottage gardens and allotments. Height to about 90cm (36″).
A hardy perennial that will bloom all summer. Different varieties bloom at different times.
A bold perennial that comes in a variety of colours. Self seeding.
Easy to grow annuals that work well in containers, raised beds or vegetable gardens. Attracts mid-summer bumblebees and other pollinators.