What Plants Are Native to NJ That Will Attract Bees?
What plants are native to Northern New Jersey that will attract bees?
Thanks for your question. There are many native plants which attract and support bees in your area. Keep in mind that we have a great diversity of native bees – about 4,000 species in North America, in addition to the European honey bee.
These different bee species vary significantly in their size, their strength, the length of the tongue, and the time of year when they are active. Some bees are “generalists” and can utilize many different flowering plants, and some bees are very specialized and have evolved to use only one particular plant species.
Honey bees are generalists, but their tongues are not very long – so they gravitate to more open flowers which are more accessible to them. Coneflower is one example of this type of flower. Avoid the double-flowered hybrids.
Bumble bees have longer tongues and are larger and stronger than honey bees – they are able to push open certain flowers like Turtlehead and to access nectar. Even so, bumble bees will also go to more accessible plants like Coneflower.
Some flowers, like Larkspurs, have extremely long flower tubes, making their nectar only accessible to bees with very long tongues – that is unless a very smart bee comes around. Some bees have figured out how to “rob nectar” by biting the base of a long flower and stealing the nectar, without providing the service of pollination.
While some plants are much more attractive to bees than others, there is no “one size fits all.” Not all flowers offer nectar; some flowers only provide bees with pollen, their source of protein. Some plants, including overly hybridized plants, may offer no food at all for bees.
Plant a wide diversity of flowering native plants to accommodate many different types of bees. Keep in mind that bees are usually attracted to flowers which are bright white, yellow, lavender, purple and blue. Bees see on a different spectrum than we do and cannot see most red flowers.
Plant diversely with a variety of flowering native plants including tree and shrubs. And, make sure to have a succession for bloom throughout the growing season.
Here is a list of some bee-friendly perennials to get you started: https://www.ecobeneficial.com/great_resources/list-bee-friendly-native-perennials/
If you are interested in reading more about native bees, here are two excellent books: The Xerces Society Guide: Attracting Native Pollinators by Eric Mader, Matthew Shepherd et al and Pollinators of Native Plants by Heather Holm.
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