Perennials that Attract Bees

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Every garden needs pollinators and bees are among the best. Without them there would be limited flowers and even fewer fruits and vegetables.
Many people are hesitant to plant areas that are attractive to bees because of the fear of being stung. The truth is most bees are gentle creatures that are simply in search of food and water for themselves and their young.

Bees are basically looking for two things when they visit your plants:
1. Nectar – nectar is loaded with sugars and it’s a bee’s main source of energy.
2. Pollen – pollen provides the balanced diet of proteins and fats.

Bee gardens also need places where bees can get water. Because of their small size, they have trouble drinking from small ponds and bird baths, and can easily get caught in the water’s surface tension. Create a drinking area by filling a ceramic saucer with wet sand and sinking it into the ground. Keep the sand wet. Puddling areas like this will attract both bees and butterflies.

To help bees, you should provide a range of plants that will offer a succession of flowers, and thus pollen and nectar, through the whole growing season. Patches of foraging habitat can be created in many different locations, from backyards and school grounds to golf courses and city parks. Even a small area planted with good flowers will be beneficial for local bees, because each patch will add to the mosaic of habitat available to bees.  Native plants are usually best for native bees, and can be used in both wild areas and gardens. There are also many garden plants-particularly older, heirloom varieties of perennials that are good sources of nectar or pollen. Together with native plants, these will make a garden attractive to both pollinators and people.  

Choose several colors of flowers. Bees have good color vision to help them find flowers and the nectar and pollen they offer. Flower colors that particularly attract bees are blue, purple, violet, white and yellow. Plant flowers in clumps. Flowers clustered into clumps of one species will attract more pollinators than individual plants scattered through the habitat patch. Where space allows, make the clumps four feet or more in diameter.  Include flowers of different shapes. There are four thousand different species of bees in North America, and they are all different sizes, have different tongue lengths, and will feed on different shaped flowers. Consequently, providing a range of flower shapes means more bees can benefit.  Have a diversity of plants flowering all season. Most bee species are generalists, feeding on a range of plants through their life cycle. By having several plant species flowering at once, and a sequence of plants flowering through spring, summer and fall you can support a range of bee species that fly at different times of the season.  Plant where bees will visit. Bees favor sunny spots over shade and need some shelter from strong winds.

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Below is a list of perennial plants to attract bees to your garden:
Achillea (Yarrow)
Arabis
Asclepias (Butterfly Flower)
Aster
Aubrieta (Rock Cress)
Buddleia (Butterfly Bush)
Calamintha (Calamint)
Campsis (Trumpet Vine)
Centaurea (Bachelor Buttons)
Centranthus (Red Valerian)
Chrysanthemum (Shasta Daisy)
Coreopsis (Tickseed)
Dianthus (Pinks)
Echinacea (Coneflower)
Eupatorium (Joe Pye Weed)
Gaillardia (Blanket Flower)
Hemerocallis (Daylily)
Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)
Lavandula (Lavender)
Liatris (Spike Gayfeather)
Lilium (Oriental Lily)
Lonicera (Honeysuckle)
Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal Flower)
Monarda (Bee Balm)
Nepeta (Catmint)
Penstemon (Beard Tongue)
Phlox paniculata (Summer Phlox)
Phlox subulata (Mountain Pink)
Polygonum (Silver Lace Vine)
Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan)
Salvia (Sage)
Scabiosa (Pincushon Flower)
Sedum
Solidago (Golden Fleece)
Verbena
Veronica (Speedwell)