The Ultimate Guide to Attracting Native Bees

H Holm Native Bees

Great Resource!

Holm Pollinators of Native PlantsPollinators of Native Plants, by Heather Holm

This comprehensive, essential resource profiles over 65 perennial native plants of the Midwest, Great Lakes region, Northeast and southern Canada as well as the pollinators, beneficial insects and flower visitors the plants attract. Beautifully designed and illustrated with over 1600 photos of plants and insects, it underscores the pivotal role that native plants play in supporting pollinators and beneficial insects. Readers learn to attract and identify pollinators and beneficial insects as well as customize their landscape planting with native plants for a particular type of pollinator.

Native Bees in the News

This past Saturday I had the pleasure of being a panelist for the launch of BeeGAP (Gardeners Adding Pollinators), dedicated to solving the problem of the loss of honeybee pollinators for our food supply and teaching gardeners how to attract native bees to their Ecosystem Gardens.

You can read all about the panelists and find out how you can be more involved at BeeAction Report, by Alisha Forrester Scott. And you can watch the event here in case you missed it:

We hear so much about how the bees are in trouble, but most people don’t realize that most of this discussion centers around honeybees, which are non-native to this country, but have been imported heavily for use in agricultural pollination, and are now seeing great declines dues to colony collapse disorder.

We need to wake up to the fact that many of our native bees are also in great trouble due to habitat loss, pesticides, and other actions by humans.

The truth is, our wildlife gardens are one of the last lines of defense to protect these native pollinators. We can create habitat and provide them with everything they need. Doing so will ensure that all of our beautiful native plants receive the pollination services they need, and even that we have delicious tomatoes and other vegetables growing in our gardens.

I’ve pulled together some wonderful resources to help you begin to attract more native bees to your Ecosystem Garden:

Native Bees

1. Bee Basics: An Introduction to our Native Beesby Beatriz Moisset and Stephen Buchmann

Bee Basics: An Introduction to Our Native Bees is a wonderful and engaging entre into the hidden world of North America’s native bees. The full-color 40 page booklet is jam-packed with information about how representative bees of 3,500 species inhabiting the US and bordering areas make a living, which flowers they visit, whether they nest underground or in hollow stems or wood. The diversity of bees is examined along with notes on their wasp ancestry. The lives of leafcutter, mason, bumble bees, miners and others is explored. Look-like bee and wasp-mimicking flies are shown. Tips for easy things gardeners, home owners and naturalists can do to protect and conserve bees and their flowers are given. The booklet is lavishly illustrated by award-winning postage stamp artist Steven Buchanan.

2. Mason Bee Boxes, by Ellen Sousa. “You can’t do much about a hard spring frost, but did you know that you can reliably improve pollination of all your fruit and vegetable crops by attracting native orchard mason bees to your yard?”

3. Attracting and Raising Mason Bees, by Kelly Brenner. “As honeybee populations suffer from colony collapse disorder, some people are looking to our native bees to see how they can fill in. Dave Hunter from Crown Bees is one of those people. I recently took a class from him about raising mason bees and learned a great deal about why we should raise mason bees and how to do it successfully.”

4. Mason Bees and Leafcutter Bees: “There are a number of bees that carry pollen under their bellies, rather than on their hind legs. They are called mason bees and leaf cutter bees because of their nesting habits.” by Beatriz Moisset

5. Leaf Cutter Bees, by Ellen Sousa. “Unlike butterfly and moth caterpillars, or herbivorous beetles such as the dreaded Japanese beetles, leafcutter bees don’t eat leaves, but cut off small pieces of leaf to use in building their nests. Leafcutter bees are among a large number of bee species known as “solitary” bees because they don’t live in social hives, like honey and bumble bees. This is important, because bees without a nest to protect are unlikely to sting you unless you physically threaten them…”

6. Conserving Bumble Bees, Xerces Society. Bumble bees, key pollinators of crops and wildflowers across the country and essential for a healthy environment, are declining at an alarming rate. Bee biologists discovered that several previously common species are now absent from much of their former territory.  Creating, protecting and restoring habitat is a very important way to conserve the populations of bees that remain.

Common Native Bees of Upper Midwest by Heather Holm

7. Bumble Bees of the Eastern USThis new guide is an authoritative tool for learning about our rich and varied bumble bee fauna. This field guide will enable people to identify, name, and further explore the colorful and charming bumble bees. This guide encourages exploring nature firsthand from a new perspective. By US Forest Service and Pollinator Partnership

8. Bumble Bees of the Western USBumble bees have been the subject of many important ecological studies in the western U.S., including research on foraging behavior, floral resource competition, and pollination. They have also provided some of the first information about how altitudinal distributions of animals are changing due to the changing climate (moving up hundreds of meters in the Colorado Rocky Mountains since the 1970s). This guide will be a valuable resource for scientists conducting these kinds of research involving bumble bee. By US Forest Service and Pollinator Partnership

9. Species Profile: Bumble Bees, by Kelly Brenner. “The various species are gentle and unlikely to sting unless their nests are disturbed, in which case they can defend their nests aggressively. Like the honey bee, they are social insects and make nests containing many individuals. Unlike the honey bee, bumble bees nests are annual, meaning the nest dies off each year. They are large and very hairy and the females carry pollen moistened by nectar in their baskets, which are structures on their hind legs that fill with pollen, but not easily seen when empty.”

10. Bumble Bees: Panda Bears of the Insect Worldby Beatriz Moisset. “Bumble bees have enough charisma to be loved, at least by children. You find children’s books, toys, and Halloween costumes about bumble bees. Perhaps what makes them acceptable is their fuzzy roundish appearance reminiscent of a tiny bear. This positive image is reinforced by their cheerful buzzing sound and their penchant to visit flowers. This is one insect which people find easy to accept in a wildlife garden.”

11. Saving Bumble Bees, Ellen Sousa says “At this point, there may not be much we can do at the individual level to save the polar bears, but many of the small but important critters that make their home in our gardens for some or part of the year — the bees,butterfliesmothsturtlestoadsfrogs — across the planet, across the board, you’ll find these species listed in high numbers on endangered and declining species lists. They’re all suffering from the same problem – widespread habitat loss and declines due to human activity.”

12. Bumble Bees, by Beatriz Moisset. “Unlike most native bees, which are solitary, and like Honey Bees, Bumble Bees live in colonies or hives with a queen and a number of workers. Their colonies last only a year, starting in the spring and dying out usually in the late fall.”

13. Bumble Bees and Turtleheads, by Beatriz Moisset. “Some flowers are easy to pollinate, wide open, with free access to pollen and nectar; an insect with no skills and no elaborate equipment can collect food without difficulty. Other flowers make things interesting; their pollinators have to figure out how to enter them and how to reach the hidden rewards. It is great fun observing the labors of some bumblebees visiting one of these “difficult” flowers.”

14. Bumble Bees, by Kelly Brenner. “…full of information about all aspects of the ecology of bumblebees which makes it a valuable resource for readers in any location. One of the most relevant topics in the book for designers focuses on bumblebee nests. Discussed is how the bees choose a location, the placement of the nest and the variety of man-made items where nests have been found such as a discarded armchair, old lawnmower and even rolled-up carpet.”

15. Discovering Native Bees in the Wildlife Garden, by Heather Holm. “As we continue to add native plant species, build diversity, and allow our landscape to evolve there’s always something new and different that shares our landscape with us. 2012 was a year of new native bee discoveries.”

16. Native Bees of North America “Native bees are an unappreciated treasure, with 4,000 species from tiny Perdita to large carpenter bees, they can be found anywhere in North America where flowers bloom. Most people don’t realize that there were no honey bees in America until the white settlers brought hives from Europe. These resourceful insects promptly managed to escape domestication, forming swarms and setting up housekeeping in hollow trees, other cavities or even exposed to the elements just as they had been doing in their native lands. Native pollinators, in particular bees, had been doing all the pollination in this continent before the arrival of that import from the Old World. They continue to do a great deal of it, especially when it comes to native plants.”

17. Urban Bees, by Kelly Brenner. “surveyed community gardens in New York where cultivated colonies of the European honey bee are rare as well as illegal. Urban gardens thus rely on native and local bees to pollinate the crops. One of the issues the paper looked at was the fact that bumble bees in more natural settings forage far distances, but the fragmentation and dangers of cars and buildings may limit the distance bumble bees can travel.”

18. Carpenter Bees, by Beatriz Moisset. “The Carpenter Bee is easily confused with the Bumble Bees. It is the same size or larger, dark and robust. But it doesn’t have any hair on the abdomen, thus this part of its body appears glossy black.”

19. Sweat Bees or Halictid Bees“These bees are called sweat bees because they are often attracted to our sweat; they may tickle a little but they are not inclined to sting. They are smaller than honey bees..” by Beatriz Moisset

20. Andrenid Bees. “Andrena bees, in the family Andrenidae, usually emerge early in the spring from their underground nests. Most of them are gone by the middle of summer, although a few can be found later in the season.” by Beatriz Moisset

21. The Pure Magnificent Green Bee: “Among the many metallic green bees that you see in the summer there is a particularly beautiful one, Augochlora pura. It doesn’t have a common name but its scientific one means “pure magnificent green” and it is a very fitting one.” by Beatriz Moisset

Native Bees in the Garden

B Moisset Beginners Guide to Pollinators22. Beginners Guide to Pollinators and Other Flower Visitorsby Beatriz Moisset.

An illustrated beginner’s field guide to insect flower visitors, including pollinators. The guide provides concise descriptions, photos and life history information of the most common insects found visiting flowers. It includes time of year, geographic area and favorite flowers. Also mentioned are those that act as pollinators and whether they may sting.

23. Attracting Native Bees to Your Wildlife Garden, by Carole Sevilla Brown. Resources for attracting native bees to your Ecosystem Garden.

24. Keeping the BeesWhy All Bees Are at Risk and What We Can Do to Save Them, by Laurence Packer

Native Pollinator Plants by Heather Holm25. Design Tips for your Pollinator Garden — Kelly Brenner has great suggestions for designing a welcoming habitat pollinator garden.

26. Bees in the Garden, by Beatriz Moisset. “A bee house for mason bees. These bees are solitary, meaning that each one tends to her own brood, about six to eight babies, and all each one needs is a hole the size of a pencil in a block of wood. They do not live in large hives with thousands of workers like honey bees. You can get fancy and create a handsome bee house like the one my son in law did for me.”

27. Regional Plant Lists for Pollinators, by Kelly Brenner. “plants lists for wildlife including birds, butterflies pollinators and even mammals.”

28. How to Build Simple Nest Boxes with Native Plants for Cavity Nesting Bees, by Heather Holm. “Many native bees are cavity nesters, including the stems of your native plants. So don’t be too eager to clean up in the fall because you’ll be throwing away many of these beneficial native bees.”

29. Ground Nesting Bees, by Vincent Vizachero. “I thought it would be fun to talk a little bit about another crucial component of pollinator support: habitat. Many of our native pollinators do not nest in native plants, even if they use them for food. So maintaining areas in your garden for these critters to nest is very important.In many cases, the best habitat is bare, dry soil.”

30. Pollinators and Nectar Robbers, by Beatriz Moisset. “Stop, Thief! That is no way to gather nectar from a flower, mister Bumble Bee! You slashed the tip of the nectar filled spur of that jewelweed and helped yourself to the reward without paying for it. Take a lesson from your sister. She is entering the flower the legitimate way, through the front door…”

31. Promoting Habitat Elimination for Native Bees? Why? by Loret T Setters. “The general public relies on the information provided by its county extension offices. If this is the type of information being distributed, I have serious concerns about the role of an extension office in the realm of protecting our environment and native species and being proponents of management techniques to insure an adequate food supply.”

32. Bee Ready for Native Bees, by Meredith O’Reilly. How to provide the best habitat for native bees in your wildlife garden

33. Creating Buzz, by Susan J. Tweit, an article on gardening for native bees from Audubon Magazine, aimed at the everyday gardener:

34. Why Can’t We Be Friends? by Debbie Roberts. “Here’s a post about accepting bees and sharing your garden with them, written more for people who are afraid of bees.”

35. Pollinator Conservation in Your Ecosystem Gardenby Carole Sevilla Brown. “The collapse of honey bee colonies caused farmers and the corporate agricultural industry to turn their eyes to native pollinators to fulfill the essential ecosystem service of pollination of our food supply. However, it was soon apparent that many native pollinators had vanished and others were in sharp decline.”

36. Pollinators and Flowers, by Kelly Brenner. “Many pollinators visit flowers for the nectar, such as butterflies, ants and honeybees, however many insects, including bumble bees and lady beetles, visit for the pollen, which they consume. Many plants have evolved different shapes and colors of flowers to attract certain types of pollinators.”

37. Attracting Native Pollinators, by Carole Sevilla Brown. A wonderful resource for learning all you need to know about attracting native bees and other pollinators to your wildlife garden

38. Bald-Faced Hornets in the Wildlife Garden, by Carole Sevilla Brown. “I just love looking for inspiration for my wildlife garden while walking with my two Plott Hounds in the woods nearby. And recently I came across something really exciting — a Bald-faced Hornet nest. Fortunately, Otis and Morgan are used to me stopping frequently in the woods to photograph flowers, insects, birds, and other natural wonders, and they lay down quietly at my feet while I took photo after photo of this fanstastical nest.”

39. Pollinators and Native vs Non-Native PlantsBeatriz Moisset explains to us why native plants are essential for pollinator survival.

40. To Bee….Or Not to Beeby Loret T. Setters. “Have you ever seen people get in a tizzy over walking near bees?…afraid they’ll be stung? Little do they know that often these “bees” are actually flies mimicking bees, so they don’t sting at all.”

41. Flower Flies as Pollinators, by Beatriz Moisset. “Among all the tiny flower visitors, butterflies stand out for their beauty and bees for their role as pollinators. But many other visitors deserve our attention. The flies of the Syrphidae family are among them.”

42. Pollinator Wasps, by Heather Holm. “It’s true, wasps are wonderful. They are pollinators, predators and beneficial insects performing very important biological control – keeping insect populations in balance. Their life cycles, feeding and hunting techniques are absolutely fascinating. Most are solitary nesting and contrary to popular belief, the majority of wasps in our landscapes don’t sting humans!”

43. Designing a Pollinator Garden, by Kelly Brenner. Resources for designing the ultimate pollinator garden.

44. Resources for Designing Your Pollinator Garden, by Kelly Brenner. A wonderful collection of resources for designing your Pollinator Garden.

45. Attracting Native Pollinators, “Once in awhile there are certain books that come along that every home library must have. Attracting Native Pollinators: The Xerces Society Guide to Conserving North American Bees and Butterflies and Their Habitat is one of those books that should sit on every shelf. It has solidly placed itself as the reference book for designing and attracting pollinators.” by Kelly Brenner

46. Bee Hotels, by Kelly Brenner. Amazing bee hotels from around the world

47. Ecosystem Services from Pollinators. “Pollination is a major ecosystem service performed by a multitude of species including a huge variety of insects as well as bats, birds, reptiles and other mammals. Among these species 2,000 vertebrates and 200,000 invertebrates serve as pollinators. Plants reproduce in many ways including self pollination, wind and carriers, but over 70% of flowering species rely on pollinators to reproduce and over 150 food crop species in the US require pollinators. It’s estimated that 1/3 of what we eat is a direct result of pollinators. We rely on them for not only food, but other things such as medicine and fibers including cotton. Among some of the products that we benefit from pollinators are: apples, almonds and other nuts, plums, tequila, mustard, tomatoes, cucumbers, oils, and so much more.” by Kelly Brenner

48. Selecting Plants for Pollinators, by Kelly Brenner. “Includes a comprehensive guide to plants including their bloom time and bloom color, and an extensive list of flowers, trees and shrubs that attract pollinators and what type of pollinator they attract.”

The Pollinator Garden Through the Seasons

49. Attracting Bumblebees With Early Spring Blooming Plants — How to choose the best plants to attract early spring pollinators, a time when native flowering plants are crucial for early season pollinators, by Donna Long

50. Plant Fall Flowering Plants as Pollinator Feeding Stations — How to extend the season throughout autumn in your pollinator garden, by Ellen Sousa

51. Late Season Nectar for Pollinators, by Ellen Sousa

52. Pollinators in the Winter Wildlife Garden — Even though we don’t see many bees in our winter wildlife gardens, they still need safe places to spend the winter, safe from cold, rain, and snow. Learn how to provide the best habitat for overwintering pollinators, by Beatriz Moisset

Native Bees and Our Food Supply

53. Native Plants, Native Bees, and Your Dinner Table — Why are native plants and native bees so important to our food supply? by Catherine Zimmerman

54. Speaking Up For the Pollinators – Susan J Tweit narrates a wonderful video showing how little food would be left for us to eat without our native pollinators.

55. Native Bees for Pumpkin and Squash Farmers, by Beatriz Moisset

56. Can Vegetable Gardens Be Wildlife Friendly? by Ellen Sousa

Honey Bees (Are NOT Native)

57. Honey Bee: by Beatriz Moisset, a profile of this introduced bee

58. Of Bees and Honey. What is Honey for? “Only social bees make any significant amount of honey. The stored supplies sustain them through the winter, when there is no other food available.” by Beatriz Moisset

59. Making Honey with Native Wildflowers in Southern California’s Chaparral, by Kathy Villim

60. What is the Connection Between Honeybees and Almond Farming? “Every year millions of bee hives are shipped to California to provide pollination for almonds during the brief period of their bloom. Beekeepers know that transporting bees and making them pollinate a monoculture such as almonds are stressful to them.” by Beatriz Moisset

Butterfly Gardens (Because Butterflies are Pollinators Too)

61. 5 Steps to the Ultimate Butterfly Garden, by Carole Sevilla Brown

62. Life Cycles of Butterflies in Your Ecosystem Garden, by Carole Sevilla Brown

Carole Sevilla Brown lives in Philadelphia, PA, and she travels the country speaking about Ecosystem Gardening for Wildlife. Check out her new free online course Ecosystem Gardening Essentials, 15 free lessons delivered to your inbox every week.

© 2013 – 2014, Carole Sevilla Brown. All rights reserved. This article is the property of We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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  1. says

    What a great resource for your readers. I hope you get lots of views and people realise how important it is to attract pollinators to their gardens, and also how easy it is to achieve it.

    The added bonus is it’s also such a joy in summer when you walk though a garden buzzing with life and colour, so it’s a win win.
    Well done and thanks.
    Meadow Project recently posted..Ashridge Estate & Aldbury Nowers

  2. says

    It was amazing to watch Native Bees fight over the nectar of Desert Cactus out here in Joshua Tree. Blooms are so few & far between in the desert, that it takes no time for the Bees to find it. Also, I noted that there were a lot of the big black Bumblebees out there than other bees.
    Kathy Vilim recently posted..Desert Wildflowers of Joshua Tree

  3. says

    Just arrived at your excellent website for the first time. Just below the YouTube – I saw the text about honey bees being non-native. I think it would be very helpful if you added ‘in North America’ (instead of ‘in this country’). Here in UK we have a big problem with many people – even conservationists – not understanding that honey bees are indigenous to Europe, and deserve conservation effort just like any other native species. I am sure that your great site will be visited by people in many parts of the world – and European visitors might accidentally get the wrong message. Thank you for your great work! All the best, Nicola

  4. says

    Thanks for this excellent info. I have seen several of these bees in my garden and did not realize they were bees! I am sharing this info. Have ordered some mountain mint seeds, a great plant for pollinators. That deer don’t like.

  5. says

    I really appreciate the material on your website. It’s hard to find such in-depth articles that are well-written and interesting. I have bookmarked this site and plan on making it a routine stop. Cheers!


  1. […] The Ultimate Guide to Attracting Native Bees: We hear so much about how the bees are in trouble, but most people don’t realize that most of this discussion centers around honeybees, which are non-native to this country, but have been imported heavily for use in agricultural pollination, and are now seeing great declines dues to colony collapse disorder. […]

  2. […] ♦ Spring has sprung for many of you out there, even though we Albertans are still knee-deep in snow. This is a good time to pay attention to how to attract and keep more bugs in your garden. Visit Inspiration Green for a net-full of insect hotel ideas, and then see the links at The Ultimate Guide to Attracting Native Bees.  […]

  3. […] The Ultimate Guide to Attracting Native Bees: We hear so much about how the bees are in trouble, but most people don’t realize that most of this discussion centers around honeybees, which are non-native to this country, but have been imported heavily for use in agricultural pollination, and are now seeing great declines dues to colony collapse disorder. […]

  4. […] The Ultimate Guide to Attracting Native Bees: We hear so much about how the bees are in trouble, but most people don’t realize that most of this discussion centers around honeybees, which are non-native to this country, but have been imported heavily for use in agricultural pollination, and are now seeing great declines dues to colony collapse disorder. […]

  5. […] The Ultimate Guide to Attracting Native Bees: We hear so much about how the bees are in trouble, but most people don’t realize that most of this discussion centers around honeybees, which are non-native to this country, but have been imported heavily for use in agricultural pollination, and are now seeing great declines dues to colony collapse disorder. […]

  6. […] I recently met Dave Hunter when he invited me to participate in a live webinar about the launch of his BeeGAP program, teaching people how they can attract and support native bees in their landscapes. [You can watch that webinar at The Ultimate Guide to Attracting Native Bees] […]

  7. […] More than ever, our gardens are becoming invaluable pieces of pollinator habitat. It goes without saying that native plants are the best choices for native pollinators. For suggestions on how to help these forgotten members of the ecosystems, I recommend the Pollinator Friendly Planting Guides supplied by the Pollinator Partnership, and the Ultimate Guide to Attracting Native Bees. […]

  8. […] The Ultimate Guide to Attracting Native Bees: We hear so much about how the bees are in trouble, but most people don’t realize that most of this discussion centers around honeybees, which are non-native to this country, but have been imported heavily for use in agricultural pollination, and are now seeing great declines dues to colony collapse disorder. We need to wake up to the fact that many of our native bees are also in great trouble due to habitat loss, pesticides, and other actions by humans. […]

  9. […] of my garden which is full of Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculate) was buzzing with hundreds of bees! I was amazed at the activity! I stayed and watched all the happenings and decided I needed to know […]

  10. […] The Ultimate Guide to Attracting Native Bees: We hear so much about how the bees are in trouble, but most people don’t realize that most of this discussion centers around honeybees, which are non-native to this country, but have been imported heavily for use in agricultural pollination, and are now seeing great declines dues to colony collapse disorder. […]

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