People love autumn. The crisp, cool weather; the changing of the leaves; and an excuse to dress up in costume even as an adult appeal to just about everyone. But it’s not just people that love this time of year– bees count on the autumn months to replenish their pollen supplies.
While you may assume that these buzzy little pollinators have the opportunity to collect pollen like it’s an all-you-can-eat-buffet during the summer months, the opposite is often true. Summers are longer and hotter than ever. Many of the plants bees count on dry up and die in the heat while those that survive are not as hospitable to pollinators. This leads to a shortage beekeepers call a “summer nectar dearth,” the decrease of nectar as the hive increases. Stronger colonies begin to rob weaker ones, leading to death and destruction.
The best way to help bee colonies survive despite summer dearth is to update your pollinator garden for the fall months. Several species of flowers thrive during the cooler months, providing ample food storage to keep colonies from turning on each other and to provide foodstuffs for the upcoming months. HomeAdvisor provides a list of plants that not only look fantastic in your yard no matter what the season, but that also provide valuable benefits to our bee friends. Read on for more information about those and more:
Hydrangeas are blessed with the lovely moniker “Autumn glory” because they don’t even begin to bud until late summer. Their immense flower heads are inviting for bees and lovely to look at in your garden. The big, bushy “pom pom” heads come in a variety of colors, but beware. Depending on the species, not all of the blooms on the stalk will be fertile. Planting a variety of species of hydrangeas in large quantities will ensure there is enough pollen for bees to stock up on.
Another one with a nickname– stonecrop is also called “Autumn joy.” Like hydrangeas, their blooms blossom in clusters that make a lovely little poof that is perfect for attracting bees. The blooms appear in early fall and take on a range of tones from pink to coppery oranges. Stonecrop bushes are perfect for border plantings and resist drought, but their heartiness comes with a drawback. If they grow too much, they become too heavy and the bush flops over, which requires staking.
Gardeners call gaillardia “Arizona sun blanket” flowers. They are extremely hardy and drought resistant due to the harsh environment of their native state. They continue to bloom until the weather becomes too cold for them to handle, so expect to see their bright red and yellow flowers until the first freeze. As a relative to the sunflower, the gaillardia is both a friend to full sun and buzzy bee pollinators.
Don’t let the word “weed” throw you off– you want this late bloomer sprouting in your garden. While Joe-Pye weed is hardy, it needs plenty of water, so those living in arid climates may want to skip this one. It grows delicate florets that range from a dusty rose to mauve color. The florets are tubular, perfect for bees to climb in but also popular with hummingbirds.
Bees love the dozens of species of goldenrod available because of their sweet fragrance and radial flowers. However, autumn goldenrod or “golden fleece” blooms well into the cooler season to provide pollinators with winter stores. Goldenrod tends to have a bad reputation when people mix it up with ragweed and blame it for their allergies, but alas this reputation is undeserved. While the fragrant pollen of goldenrod attracts bees and butterflies, it’s not a cause of hayfever.
Planting an autumn garden adds even more beautiful colors to the season, but it also helps protect important pollinators including bees. While you may think the summer months provide ample flowers for bees, the dry, hot nature of the season can deplete stores and lead to death and destruction among colonies. The various autumn flowers available can prevent this while helping bees stock up for winter and continue the natural pollination cycle.
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