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Saturday - March 12, 2011

From: Schulenburg, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Native wildflowers attracting bees in Schulenberg TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What native wildflowers are honey bees attracted to?

ANSWER:

Why is it that the shortest questions take the longest time to answer?

Begin by reading three websites that we have found to help you figure this out. The first two, Celebrating Wildflowers-Pollinators-Bee Pollination and Celebrating Wildflowers-Pollinators-The Birds and the Bees, are both from the United States Forest Service. The third website is from the USDA, Bee Pastures-Floral Havens Where Pollinators Can Prosper.

Will it surprise you to know that "honey bees" are not even native to North America? In 1622 the European colonists of the New World brought Apis mellifera, honey bee, to North America for the  production of honey. Since that time, obviously, many honey bees have escaped to become wild or feral bees.  Honey bees have continued to be moved around to pollinate crops, and some of those crops have been non-native, too. There are business who rent their bees to farmers for pollination of their crops, moving hives around the country to be in the right spot during blooming season.

There are lots of beekeepers in Central Texas, both businesses and hobbyists, and we're sure there are plenty of wild honey bees around, too. But without going out into the fields with a pad and pencil and counting bee visitors to each wildflower, we have no way which "tame"  or wild non-native honey bee or members of the many other species of bee pollinators that belong here are hovering over those flowers. So, can we agree to talk about "bees" without referring specifically to "honey bees?"

Now, let's get down to what kind of bees feed at what kind of flowers. You have to understand that pollinating plants never enters a bee's mind, if it has a mind. They are out to get nectar and pollen for themselves and their families to eat. It's just a miracle of adaptation that flowering plants have learned how to attract bees and what kinds of bees can fill up at what kind of flowers. There are over four thousand species of bees native to North America. The flowers that attract each bee partly depends on the fragrance of that flower and partly on whether the bee is a short-tongued or long-tongued bee. A short-tongued bee can only feed on an open flower, like asters. A long-tongued bee can get to the nectar in a deep flower, like bluebells or lupines. Also, we have to consider if bees are attracted to certain colors. Bees cannot see red, but can see yellows and blues. Now that we have given you way too much information, here is a list of wildflowers native to Central Texas that have the characteristics to attract bees, and remember, this is just a sample, there are lots more wildflowers in your area that attract bees or butterflies or hummingbirds, all first-rate pollinators:

Amblyolepis setigera (Huisache daisy)

Callirhoe involucrata (Winecup)

Coreopsis lanceolata (Lanceleaf coreopsis)

Echinacea purpurea (Eastern purple coneflower)

Linum berlandieri var. berlandieri (Berlandier's yellow flax)

Machaeranthera tanacetifolia (Tahoka daisy)

Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet)

Melampodium leucanthum (Blackfoot daisy)

Salvia engelmannii (Engelmann's sage)

Helianthus maximiliani (Maximilian sunflower)

Helianthus maximiliani (Maximilian sunflower)

Eustoma exaltatum (Catchfly prairie gentian)

Penstemon cobaea (Wild foxglove)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

 

 

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