Help your local pollinators this gardening season!

LBN Weekly Eco Tip #6

Native and non-invasive plants throughout Canada that you can plant in your garden (or balcony garden) to attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

Our mission is to cultivate change through food, and what better way than to start at the source?

Learn how to help bee populations survive this growing season from the comfort of your own home!

Why are bees essential for our food systems and biodiversity health?

Honey bees — wild and domestic — perform about 80 percent of all pollination worldwide. A single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day. Grains are primarily pollinated by the wind, but fruits, nuts and vegetables are pollinated by bees. Seventy out of the top 100 human food crops — which supply about 90 percent of the world’s nutrition — are pollinated by bees.

From Greenpeace.org

It is alarming, then, that Greenpeace estimates that “bee colonies per hectare has declined by 90 percent since 1962.”

Our friends over at Maisie Jane’s California Sunshine are concerned about bee populations as well, and have partnered with the Xerces Society and The Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility to help promote bee conservation.

Maisie Jane’s family owned and operated farm relies on bees to produce their delicious natural and organic nut products. They’re the bee’s knees!

How can we help from home?

If you have a backyard, community garden, or even a balcony garden, there are plant varieties that are attractive to bees and pollinators, which will help sustain their colonies and will in turn help local crops grow!

What kind of flowers do bees like?

Help feed the bees by growing flowers with plenty of nectar. Wildflowers that are native to your area, or are non-invasive, have good amounts of nectar and pollen that bees need.

Learn more from the Canadian Wildlife Federation about why native plants are essential for ecosystems and bee health, and use the Native Plant Encyclopedia to find and identify specific plants.

Find tips and articles from the David Suzuki Foundation

Bee-friendly flowers found across Canada

This handy guide from Planting Forage for Honey Bees in Canada, by Pollinator Partnership Canada lists specific varieties of flowers that attract honey bees, including which region of Canada they can be grown in, and their soil and light preferences.

Below is a sample of flowers from the guide that can be grown anywhere in Canada!

Sunflowers

Latin: Helianthus annuus, Helianthus maximiliani, Heliopsis helianthoides

Depending on your variety of sunflower, these giant summer flowers can grow between 1.5′ and 10′ tall! They usually prefer dry to moderately moist soil. Check to see the specific soil preferences for the sunflowers you want to grow. 

Bee Borage

Latin: Borago officinalis

This star-shaped blue flowered plant grows between 1-3′ tall in the sun or partial shade. It prefers clay, sandy, or loamy soil that is dry to moist, and well drained. You can eat both the leaves and flowers. According to Friends of the Earth UK, borage leaves taste similar to cucumber, while the flowers are sweet and honey-like.

Fireweed

Latin: Chamerion angustifolium

Also called Great Willowherb or Saint Anthony’s Laurel, this magenta perennial will grow up to 6′ tall! It prefers full sun, and grows best in sandy or loamy soil that is dry to moist and well drained. Fireweed is edible! Find out how to eat fireweed from Edible Alaska.

Anise or Giant Hyssop

Latin: Agastache foeniculum

The giant hyssop has recognizable blue-purple cone-like flowers. The plant  grows between 2-4′ tall and prefers dry, well-drained sandy soil with sun or partial shade. Hyssop is edible! Friends of the Earth UK says “Hyssop is strong, so use sparingly. Young leaves go well with oily fish such as mackerel or sardines, with new potatoes and a salad of watercress and rocket.”

Rocky Mountain Bee Plant

Latin: Cleome serrulata

Standing up to around 3′ tall, these white, cream, or pink coloured flowers enjoy sun to partial shade in sandy or loam soil that is dry to moist and well drained.

Fleabane

Latin: Erigeron annuus, Erigeron compositus, Erigeron divergens, Erigeron philadelphicus, Erigeron strigosus.

These tiny daisies are a Spring staple, with different varieties found across Canada. Though they can grow up to around 3′ tall, they often prefer to stay in small clumps on lawns, in sidewalk cracks, or in sandy, sunny areas. Check to see the specific conditions your variety of fleabane prefers. 

Grow Herbs for Bees

If you only have a small growing space, herbs are an excellent source of nutrition for both you and our bee friends!

Grow herbs in your garden, balcony or another space where bees can easily reach them.

Here’s a list of herbs that bees love, from Friends of the Earth UK:

  • Marjoram
  • Mint
  • Fennel
  • Borage
  • Chives
  • Rosemary

  • Sage
  • Lemon Balm
  • Thyme

Create positive environmental change through food, and help save our pollinator superheroes all from your backyard!

Have more tips and suggestions?
Send us a message!


Sources:

The David Suzuki Foundation – https://davidsuzuki.org/queen-of-green/create-pollinator-friendly-garden-birds-bees-butterflies/

Edible Alaska – https://ediblealaska.ediblecommunities.com/things-do/finding-fireweed-phoenix-foraging

Friends of the Earth UK – https://friendsoftheearth.uk/bees/best-herbs-for-bees

Planting Forage for Honey Bees in Canada by Pollinator Partnership Canada – http://www.flowerscanadagrowers.com/uploads/2017/04/planting%20guide%20-%20final%20(1).pdf

Additional Resources:

West Coast-Specific

BC Farms & Food – https://bcfarmsandfood.com/plant-a-bee-attracting-garden/

Canadian Wildlife Federation – https://cwf-fcf.org/en/resources/DIY/habitat-projects/map-your-backyard/plant-for-bees-butterflies.html

Feed the Bees – https://feedthebees.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Bee-Friendly-Plants-for-Your-Garden-and-Farm1.pdf

Ontario-Specific

Native Plants for Pollinators by Credit Valley Conservation – https://cvc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/17-uo-nativeplantsforpollinators-booklet-v8-web.pdf


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