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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Plants (and other things) That Attract Bees in Desert Landscapes

Q. I would like to plant some bee attracting plants this fall.  I read that bee balm is excellent but that Vegas is not the best climate for it. Do you have some suggestions for plants in Las Vegas?

A. When do you want the bees to come? It isn't difficult to find plants that attract bees. It is more difficult to find plants that bloom at a time when you need to attract pollinators.
Rosemary is a good plan for attracting honeybees because it blooms almost all season long, particularly during the winter months in warm locations. I like Rosemary because they are flowering and attracting bees at the same time when fruit trees are just starting to bloom.
Plants are only one ingredient for a attracting pollinators like bees into the garden. A good winter plant for attracting them in the winter months is Rosemary. You need to attract honeybees into the yard starting in early February to help pollinate peaches, nectarines and apricots.
Here is a honey be attracted to a fairy duster plant. The flowering time must correspond to the time when you need to attract these insects for pollination.


If you put out some water, keep it clean and have a shallow landing area for them it will attract bees. When it starts to get warm, bees haul water back to the hive to keep it cool. Just simply putting out a birdbath near your vegetable garden helps pull them into your garden area. But remember to keep the water and birdbath clean. Don't fill the birdbath with water. Leave an area for these insects to land, collect water and return to the hive. Or put some rocks in the birdbath that they can land on.You'll see them trying to use swimming pools but often times they drown because there is no shallow area to collect water.
Leaf cutter bees typically come out too late in the season to do much good in pollinating early season fruit trees but they can be great in the vegetable garden as long as you can tolerate the damage from them.


Hummingbird feeders filled with sugar water attract honeybees. They need that the sugar for energy and will take this concoction back to the hive. The hummingbird feeder needs to be emptied, cleaned,  washed and filled again with clean sugar water. Feeding honeybees sugar water isn't the healthiest diet but it will attract them to the vegetable area. Some Tanglefoot on the support stake keeps ants out of the feeder.Sometime around late March or April leaf cutter bees will become active. They are great pollenizers but they come out fairly late in the spring.
You can increase the number of solitary bees on your property by putting out places for them to lay their eggs like these Bee boxes. They are just 4 x 4's with 3/8 inch holes drilled in them for the females to lay their eggs. Solitary bees like leaf cutters are very good pollinators.

Bee balm, Monarda, will grow fine here. It just isn't a desert plant so don’t treat it like one. Bee balm cannot be planted and cared for as you would, for instance, desert marigold, a true desert plant.
            Bee balm will need soil improvement at the time of planting and watered more often than plants like desert marigold. Many of the herbs like rosemary are great for attracting honeybees. Other herbs favored by honeybees include oregano and marjoram.
            During hot weather, honeybees like scavenging for water. They are constantly hauling water back to their hives to help keep it cool. If you have lots of plants flowering in the yard, then providing water that honeybees can haul may be a partial solution.
            Provide a shallow reservoir of water with a "landing area" so they won't drown. Make sure the water is changed regularly so that it’s clean, like a birdbath.

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