Spring is always filled with “firsts”. The first Mourning Cloak butterfly, first flock of Robins running along the grass and the first bumble bee.
The bumble bees really excite me. Those big hairy bodies, buzzing and wobbling through the air, are among the signs that spring has truly arrived. These early bumble bees are the queens that overwintered by hibernating underground. I often wonder what they find to eat when it seems so little is available.
These thoughts Iead me to evaluate my garden. Do I have enough early spring blooming plants? Which ones are attractive to the bumble bees?
Each year I add more native plants for wildife to my garden. And finding out which plant to plant takes detective work.
It isn’t often that I find a list for just what I want. If I could find a plant list of “Early Blooming Native Plants of the Delaware Valley Which Attract Bumble Bees”, I would love it. But, since I haven’t found that list, I have to “roll” my own.
Here are some of the steps I take to identify which plant the bumble bees will need.
First, I watch the bumble bees. I note in my nature journal which plants I see the bees visiting and what they do there. Do they stay or immediately fly off? Is she sipping nectar? Are her pollen sacs filled? The Bumble bees themselves tell me what plants attract them.
Second, I sift through the plant lists that I collect. Nature preserves and natural places, sometimes publish lists of what plants are in bloom, when. These are in effect blooming calendars for an area. I had a list of early-blooming plants from Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve in Bucks County. I cross-checked that with mentions of bumble bee plants in my books on insect-plant interactions.
Here is what I have come up with so far. “Early Blooming Native Plants of the Delaware Valley Which Attract Bumble Bees:”
- Acontium, various species – Monkshood
- Amelanchier, various species – Shadbush
- Aquilegia canadensis – Columbine
- Baptisa australis – Blue False Indigo
- Cercis canadensis – Redbud
- Cornus florida – Dogwood
- Dicentra cucullaria – Dutchman’s Breeches
- Lindera bezoin – Spicebush
- Mertensia pulmonariodes – Virginia Bluebells
- Penstemons, various local species
- Ranunculus, various species – Buttercup
- Senecio, various species – Golden Groundsels
- Tiarella cordifolia – Foamflower
I am glad to find out I have quite a few of these plants in my garden already. My neighbors don’t have to know that my garden is full of bumblee bee enticing plants. They just know it looks pretty.
I hope this list is early enough in the season to help you plan. A list helps me plan my garden, instead of being let loose at the spring native plant sales. Without a list, it is like going to the supermarket hungry. I always end up buying far more than I need or have room for.
Wildlife gardening is just coming into its own. Several great books have been published in the last few years including the recent, Attracting Native Pollinators: The Xerces SocietyGuide to Conserving North American Bees and Butterflies and Their Habitat by the Xerces Society.
If we create lists and share them online, it will be that much easier to help those new to the wildlife gardening fold.
I am a writer and naturalist living in the beautiful Delaware River Valley of Pennsylvania. I write about natural history topics. I’m very grateful to be human and to have a beautiful abundant world to live in. I work, volunteer, write and blog, to call attention to those everyday joys and wonders, that make living here on planet Earth so good. By being mindful of what we do, we are not saving the Earth, we are saving life on Earth, including ourselves. Follow @donnallong on Twitter
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