Spring ahead with Bumble Bee Garden Kits – orders now closed

Spring is just around the corner, and now is a great time to start planning your pollinator garden for the year ahead. For the first time ever, the Xerces Society is pleased to offer a Bumble Bee Garden Kit consisting of some of the best native wildflowers for attracting bumble bees in the United States.

The bumble bee garden kit includes ten different species (38 plants total) that are suitable for gardens in most of the country. The flowers will provide bloom from spring to fall, supporting bumble bees throughout their active season. While the plant species have been selected for bumble bee appeal, they are broadly attractive to an incredible diversity of pollinators.

The kits are produced in collaboration with JFNew Nursery, a national leader in natural areas restoration. Every effort is made to avoid the use of pesticides in the propagation of the kits (small amounts of soap may be needed in the greenhouse for aphid control, but long lasting systemic insecticides are not used!). The plants will ship as live plugs ready for planting during Pollinator Week 2011 (June 19-25).

The flowers in these kits will grow in most sunny garden locations (see the map below for suitable regions), and are a perfect addition to urban and suburban flower beds, school and community gardens, office parks, and parking strips.

They will be shipped by JFNew Nursery in late June.

Plant species in the bumble bee garden kits are compatible with most sunny garden locations within the area shown in green on the map below.

Range Map

Note that these kits are not intended to be used in natural areas. Although native to North America, the flowers are not necessarily native to all areas and should not be considered a substitute for locally native plants in restoring natural areas; consult a local native plant nursery when working in sensitive habitats.

Bumble Bee Garden Kits Include:
Blue Wild Indigo (Baptisia australis)
Wild indigo is a unique member of the legume family, growing to 3 or 4 feet tall and producing a profusion of bright blue flowers upon maturity. Its role as a spring blooming plant helps support early emerging bumble bee species, particularly long-tongue species like the golden northern bumble bee (Bombus fervidus). Quantity: 2

Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata) Yellow coneflower is a fast maturing plant with a very long bloom time and good drought tolerance. Where they are found, the brown-belted bumble bee (Bombus griseocollis), the two-spotted bumble bee (Bombus bimaculatus), and the tricolored bumble bee (Bombus ternarius) are all common visitors. In addition to bumble bees, yellow coneflower is highly attractive to long-horn bees in the genus Svastra, and a number of small sweat bees. Quantity: 2

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) Now a classic in many gardens, purple coneflower is visited by a tremendous variety of both short and long-tongued bumble bees, as well as countless butterflies, solitary bees, honey bees, and other pollinators. Quantity: 2

Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea) Prairie clovers are prolific nectar and pollen plants that hum with bee activity during their mid-summer bloom period. Short tongue bees like the common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens) are aggressive foragers among the bright lavender blossoms. Quantity: 8

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) Over the past several years the Xerces Society has solicited photographs of several highly imperiled bumble bee species. One interesting observation resulting from this national monitoring effort has been that almost all photographs we received from across the eastern U.S. of the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) were taken on this particular flower! Wild bergamot is also a favorite of the biggest long tongue eastern bumble bees like black and gold bumble bee (Bombus auricomus), as well as hummingbirds and various hawk moths. Quantity: 8

Lavender Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) Lavender hyssop, a member of the mint family, grows well in a variety of soils. It has a long bloom period in mid-summer, and the spikes of blue-violet flowers with plentiful nectar are highly attractive to multiple bumble bee species. The foliage also has a lovely anise scent when crushed. Quantity: 8

Bottle Gentian (Gentiana andrewsii) The flowers of bottle gentian are quite striking. The deep blue or violet flowers remain closed even at maturity, resembling clusters of large flower buds. Bumble bees, which are large and strong enough to force their way through the small opening at the top of the closed petals, are the primary pollinators, and may linger inside the flower for up to a minute to drink nectar. Blooming occurs in late summer or early fall. Quantity: 2

Riddell’s Goldenrod (Oligoneuron riddellii) Late summer would be dull without the cheerful bright golden flower clusters of goldenrods. These flowers draw in a wide variety of beneficial insects seeking pollen or nectar, including bumble bees, digger bees, sweat bees, soldier beetles, and others. Quantity: 2

New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae) The showy composite flowers of New England Aster appear in late summer and usually linger until the first frost. Each flower has pale lavender or bright purple petal-like ray flowers around a central gold disk. The flowers are an important late season food source for the American bumble bee (Bombus penslyvanicus), the southern plains bumble bee (Bombus fraternus), and the common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens), as well as many other native bees and butterflies. Quantity: 2

Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) This is an attractive native warm season, clump-forming grass that grows in circular dense tufts, with leaves that arch gracefully towards the ground. Prairie dropseed grows less than 2.5 feet in height, and is drought tolerant. Bumble bees may nest under its dense grass clusters. In the fall, the leaves turn a lovely golden to rusty bronze color. Quantity: 2

Why bumble bee gardens?
With growing evidence that several bumble bee species in the United States are on the decline, it is increasingly important to find ways to support these important pollinators. New research suggests that home gardens may be more important for bumble bees than previously thought. Researchers in Britain demonstrated that survival of bumble bees in areas dominated by agriculture was positively associated with gardens. Although home gardens corresponded to just a small fraction of the landscape, the flowers and nest sites they supported were important for bumble bees. The scientists also found that the positive influence of gardens spills over onto nearby farmland. Agricultural crops located within half a mile of gardens were more likely to receive visits from bumble bees.