Plants That Are a Magnet for Bees

Dan This Land of Ours


Cathy Isom learns what a Kentucky entomology student discovered about bees and the plants they like the best. That’s coming up on This Land of Ours.


If you’ve ever wondered what flowers, plants, and trees attract the bees the most, you can thank a Kentucky entomology student who really did her research. Bernadette Mach developed a list of bee-friendly trees and shrubs with the objective of helping homeowners who have the desire to help the bee population and find the right plants for their yards. In the past five to 10 years, researchers estimate that pollinator populations have declined between 30 and 60 percent, depending on the pollinator. While much of the attention has focused on dwindling honeybee populations due to colony collapse disorder, native bee populations including bumblebees, mason bees and many other solitary bee species, are also on the decline. Habitat loss due to urban and suburban sprawl is one of the main reasons.

plantsMach, who began her research project about three years ago, took visual counts of bees visiting various trees and shrubs in two cities in the Ohio valley region that were relatively close in distance with comparable landscape plantings. She also identified 50 bees visiting the plant or planting at each site.  She would repeat this for a particular plant species at five different sites, characterizing both the relative attractiveness of about 75 different species of woody landscape plants, as well as the types of bees that visit each plant across a total of about 375 different landscape sites.  Mach says the information is useful for distinguishing which plants a honeybee keeper might want to plant versus someone who is interested in conserving bumblebees.

The list includes bee-friendly ratings of plants along with the bloom times of each month. Mach identified a number of horticulturally desirable but underutilized plants as “bee magnets,” information that could help to spur sales of those plants by nursery producers, landscapers, and garden centers.

I’m Cathy Isom…

The full list of bee-friendly trees and shrubs titled, “Plants Bees Like Best,” is available at

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