Honeybee on clover, New Zealand

By Andy Murray (New Zealand honey bee on clover) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s no secret, honeybees are not doing well. There are many scientists and researchers working on this problem. At this time there is not a clear cut answer to what is causing what is called “Colony Collapse Disorder” or CCD. Some scientists believe a small parasitic mite is the culprit. Others believe the lack of rain the last three years has impacted wildflower fields and the honeybees are dying from starvation. Lastly, pesticides applied by homeowners and farmers to fruit and vegetables crops are harming bees as they forage for pollen.

So what can we do to help? With winter just around the corner and the possibility of rains, we are once again thinking about what should we plant this year. Keeping the bees in mind, I would like to make some suggestions.

The genus Ceanothus is my first pick. With flower colors of blue and white, the sweet smell draws bees by the thousands. It’s not hard to find a species that can fit in your garden. There are large tree types, shrubs, and groundcovers to pick from. They must be planted in a sunny area.

My second choice is the genus Salvia. Many Salvia species grow in sandy, dry soil types and are well know to attract bees. They do not require heavy irrigation and are free of many pest problems.

Lastly, Eriogonum or buckwheat is a wonderful plant that will grow in many soil types and requires very little irrigation once established. My favorites are E. arborescens, Santa Cruz Island buckwheat, and E. giganteum, St. Catherine’s lace.

So this year while you are thinking about what to plant in the garden, I hope you will consider what you can do to help the little bee.

John Nowak