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How To Attract Butterflies and Bees to Your Garden

Bee and butterfly populations have been decreasing in recent years. By taking action now, all of us can help by planting flowers and shrubs that attract pollinators. The following information will assist with which plants to select, keeping in mind there are many more not listed. In general, bees like white, blue, purple, and yellow flowers and hummingbirds love red tubular-shaped flowers. Select flowers with abundant supplies of nectar and pollen. By observing the plants in your garden, you will soon learn which are the most visited by bees and other pollinators.

American native perennials, or wildflowers, with long bloom periods, prolific flowers, and colors attractive to pollinators can be combined to provide a pollinator paradise from late spring through fall. Use them to design a garden area or meadow that will provide pollinators, birds, and other wildlife with food and shelter. Good perennial choices include columbine, lupine, foxglove, coreopsis, coneflower, milkweed, wild bergamot, sweet Joe-Pie, black-eyed Susan, goldenrod, and aster.

Annuals: Many popular annual flowers, or bedding plants, have been bred for attractive characteristics such as new colors and fancy flower forms, and in the process may have lost some of their appeal to pollinators. Some annuals, however, are good pollinator plants. These include sweet alyssum, ageratum, borage, cosmos, spiderflower, sunflower (Helianthus, but avoid pollenless varieties), Mexican sunflower, pineapple sage, and some types of zinnia and verbena.

Herbs: Basil, borage, catmint, chives, lavender, oregano, and rosemary are all highly attractive to honey bees and some other pollinators if allowed to bloom. Intersperse these herbs in your vegetable garden to invite the pollinators in.

Shrubs, Trees: Woody flowering shrubs and trees can be good pollen and nectar resources, especially if they flower at a time of year when there are few other plants in bloom, early in spring or late into fall. Fruit trees, such as apple, cherry, peach, and plum, need insect pollination to set fruit. Other trees around you, such as red maple, oak, wild cherry, horse chestnut, tupelo, basswood, and black locust are also of value to pollinators. Even though many are wind-pollinated, bees and other insects still use their flowers as food sources.

Source: UNH Cooperative Extension,

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