How to attract pollinators

Q. I want to attract more bees to my yard to save them. Are there any flowers that bees don’t like?

Robin from Salem

A. So glad to hear you are working on a pollinator garden and adding plants that bees do like. Plant selection is important, but something that is more important is selecting plants and making a blooming chart to provide blooms from early in the spring through the very end of fall.

As you begin your plant selection, the first thing to consider is flower color. Although bright colors attract many pollinators, bees do not see the color red. Depending on the ultraviolet light, the color red appears gray or black to the bee’s eye. Bees have favorite colors – purple and blue, then yellow and orange.

Next consider shape of the flower. Generally speaking, bees are attracted to tubular-shaped blossoms where they can crawl into or small flat flowers they can walk on to get to the food they need.

Bees are attracted to flowers with a pleasant scent. Some flowers (marigolds and mums are examples) do not attract bees, but may repel other insects.

So, what specific flowers should you avoid? Personally, I have found dianthus and petunias don’t attract pollinators (they will buzz around but usually don’t visit unless no other nectar flowers are around). Also, bees don’t care much for roses. Roses are too much work for too little nectar. Geraniums offer little pollen. Strawflowers emit an unpleasant odor to bees, same is true of feverfew. Our bee experts at Ohio State University tell us that plants with double flower petals, “are often inaccessible to pollinators.”

If you are looking to attract more than just honeybees, focus on plants that are native to our area. This includes perennials, shrubs and trees that are native and provide the nutrients in the amount needed by our native pollinators.

For those who are allergic to bee stings and need to detract bees from their landscape consider these: trees, birch and oak; conifers; most ground covers; and many shrubs.

For a list of plants to consider for your garden, go to:

Marilyn McKinley, an OSU Ext. master gardener volunteer, provided today’s answer. Call 330-533-5538 to submit your questions. Regular clinic hours are 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and Thursdays.