Save the bees by planting flowers they’ll enjoy all year.

Honey bees are known as workhorses, producing their delicious product that’s an all-natural alternative to sugar. The only reason bees can make honey is by gathering nectar from flowers – by the thousands! And while they work away at their day jobs, they’re pollinating garden ornamentals and even more importantly, food crops.

Without honey bees, we wouldn’t have many of the delicious nuts, blueberries, watermelons or tomatoes that we enjoy. The problem is that our world’s honeybee population is dwindling. Scientists don’t know all of the reasons, but the biggest contributor to collapse of bee colonies is use of pesticides and insecticides.

The first step home gardeners can take to keep bees alive in their gardens and worldwide is to use integrated pest management. Simply put, it means being more environmentally sensitive and less reactive to pest problems. Instead of “spray first, ask questions later,” keep your plants healthy and monitor the pest problem. For example, spray roses with blasts of water in the morning to wash aphids to the ground. If you have to control pests, research how and try to do all you can to use pesticides and insecticides only as a last resort.

By the way, bees aren’t the only beneficial insects for your garden. Lady bugs are known for feeding on aphids, thrips, spider mites and other creepy crawlies you’d rather not have on your plants. Wasps might annoy and sting, but they’d rather help destroy the larvae of many caterpillars, including nasty tomato hornworms. Encouraging plenty of beneficial insects keeps your plants healthy and pollinated and keeps up the bird population around your home!

Designating between 5 and 10 percent of your ornamentals as insect attracters gives good balance to your garden. And if you can swing it in your climate, try to have something blooming all year, along with a water source, so the insects can thrive through all four seasons.

Here are a few bee-friendly plants to try:
Perennials: Anemone, aster, buttercup, clematis, rose, tansy, hyacinth and crocus.
Annuals: Sunflower, zinnia, heliotrope, marigold, and poppy.
Herbs: Lavender, catmint, fennel, rosemary and sage.