Our guest this month was Dr. Alison Dibble. Alison is an assistant research professor at UMO. Alison says she considers herself to be a conservation environmentalist. She shared results of her four year study to determine what bees like best – not just honey bees, but the natives as well.
On four different farms/university gardens, Alison and her colleagues planted 1 meter square gardens in a large area having meter wide walkways around each square. Each square was planted with one of 90 species or cultivars. Over 4 summers, 1 minute observations about bee visitation on these flowers were made at a rate of 3 observations/day/farm. In all, 14,311 one-minute observations of 65 bee species were made in the 4 summers from 2012-2015.
Some observations from Alison’s research:
- With some exceptions, native plants attracted more bees than introduced plants.
- Body size of a bee and tongue length made a difference as to what flowers they went to.
- Yellow flowers had more visitation
- Bee visitation to many plants varied within the day (AM, Mid-day, etc), which may be due to nectar flow during those times.
Of the plants Dr. Dibble and her colleagues tested, which did bees like best? Following are those plants bees clearly like best:
- Pasture Rose
- Butterfly Milkweed (especially bumblebees!)
- Greek Oregano
- Willow (early source of food)
- Summer sweet
- Bee’s Friend
- Anise Hyssop
- Purple Coneflower
- Yellow Sweet Clover
- Rough Hawkweed
- Native Asters
There are ways we can make habitat improvements. Alison suggests planting a successionof pesticide-free flowers that will bloom early April through mid-November, native and introduced, with annuals (to fill in gaps) and perennials, including herbaceous as well as woody plants. Also, mow your lawn less. Set the blade higher or better yet mow in October after plants have completed their cycle.
Thank you Dr. Alison Dibble for being our guest this month, sharing your research,and words to encourage us to sit with our plants and observe their visitors.
For more information on how to create a bee-friendly landscape visit:
Bee forage plants for North America:
By: Julie Hundley
Photography: Beth Goodwin