Honeybees are more important than most people realize. Hundreds of crops that we have come to love and also dislike rely on the honey bee for pollination. It’s estimated that the sum of approximately fifteen billion dollars annually, is the value of the honey bees work in the United States agriculture industry. About one third of all food consumed in the United States is pollinated by bees. Inadequate pollination will reduce the size and quality of crops.
The demise of the honey bee is a complex issue. Since 2006 bee keepers have lost about one third of the honey bee colonies due to Colony Collapse Disorder. Their decline is caused by different problems, parasitic mites, viral and INSECTICIDE POISONING to name a few. This is not an article on farming or agriculture. It is about helping honey bees and other pollinators by planting gardens that will attract pollinators and help increase their numbers.
People who know me realize for years I have been butterfly gardening, which by the way is another pollinator. Most people don’t think about this role of butterflies because everyone is so busy applauding their beauty and color that the last thing they consider is the important part they play in pollination of crops and flowers. Besides, we have grown to admire and respect these lovely “flying flowers”. Well, what I am going to do is give you a list of plants I have found to attract honey bees and, as a bonus, you will attractbutterflies and hummingbirds. Now come on, how better does gardening get that we are also helping our insect friends!
Remember honey bees are out in the garden collecting pollen, they are not there to attack you. Honestly I have so many in my garden that in the morning when I have my coffee outside it’s so quiet that the honey bees sound like a hydroelectric plant with their loud hum as they scurry around the garden collecting pollen. You know what? I have never been stung in my garden in twenty years. As long as you don’t go after them they will leave you alone. So I will give you my list with what I think is most important on down. DO NOT USE PESTICIDES. INSTEAD RELEASE LADY BUGS IN THE SPRING. This in itself will boost their numbers and keep your yard more pest free because 90% of all insects in your garden are good bugs keeping the balance in your gardening. When you spray pesticides you kill everything. The first is Vitex. I have three different species. The Chaste Tree comes in white and what I call purple flowers. Leaves are shaped like marijuana (oh my) and are just covered with honey bees all the time in spring, summer and fall. The third is Vitex trifolia. This one is special because the top side of the leaves are silver green and the bottom are purple so when the wind blows it is just beautiful. Fire bush tome is probably my favorite bush. It is native and also dwarf and all species of gladbra have their own uses, not only attracting honey bees but you know what, all of these plants will attract butterflies and humming birds as well. Next is Sweet Almond (Aloysia varigata), very fragrant and blooms all year. I have four or more in my garden. Other plants are: Penta, Dombeya, Yellow Alder, Elderberry, Agastaches, Lantanas, Sweet Almond, Salvias, Almost all herb flowers and wild flowers. The list goes on.
Better yet let your yard go more natural, use no pesticides and rely on Mother Nature. Help everyone out. Keep Butterflying!!! Or maybe KEEP HONEY BEING!!!
Mike Malloy, local author and artist known as “The Butterfly Man” has been a Naples resident since 1991. A Collier County Master Gardener, he has written two books entitled “Butterfly Gardening Made Easy for Southwest Florida,” and “Tropical Color – A Guide to Colorful Plants for the Southwest Florida Garden”, and currently writes articles on various gardening topics for several local publications. Mike has planted and designed numerous butterfly gardens around Naples including many schools, the City of Naples, Rookery Bay, the Conservancy and Big Cypress. Bring your gardening questions to the Third Street Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings or on Thursdays at the Naples Botanical Garden where he does a Plant Clinic or visit his website, www.naplesbutterfly.com. He also can be heard every Saturday at 4 PM on his call-in garden radio show, “Plant Talk with Mike Malloy,” on 98.9-WGUF.