Posted 4:03 p.m. Friday, May 26, 2023

A wide range of bees collect nectar and pollen from purple coneflowers.

Plant a variety of flowers to bloom all season long and consider the habitat you create for bees

Making generalizations about bees is not easy considering more than 20,000 known bee species exist around the world. In any given area, you’ll find many different native bees. For instance, in the La Crosse, Wisconsin area we have cellophane bees, leafcutter bees, carpenter bees, bumble bees and sweat bees — just to name a few.  

What are the best flowers for bees? 

Different species of bees have different floral preferences. The best method for supporting a variety of bees in your yard is to plant native plants that bloom at different times during the growing season. For example, have three different species of plants blooming in spring, summer and fall. The Xerces Society and Prairie Moon Nursery have great resources for choosing native species based on their bloom time. 

Best bee habitat? 

In addition to thinking about what flowers bees like best, it is important to consider their overall habitat needs. Different species of bees need different habitats.  

  • Ground nesting bees, like cellophane and miner bees, nest in various terrain. While some prefer bare soil, others nest in woodchips or manicured lawns. Providing a variety of land types for the bees to choose from will support their populations. 
  • Cavity nesting bees, like carpenter and mason bees, use hollow plant stems and holes in wood to build their nests. It’s best to leave dead stems over winter to provide a place for them to hibernate. In the spring, you can cut the stems back to provide new nest cavities; leave the tops of the plant on the ground to decompose and allow bees hibernating in the stem to escape. 
  • Bumble bees are opportunistic and will build their nest in pre-existing holes, like under a shed or in an abandoned rodent hole. They don’t cause structural damage and are not aggressive. If you find one in your yard, leave it be and count yourself lucky! 


Danielle Hudson samples bees on the UW-La Crosse campus in spring.

Part of UW-La Crosse Graduate Student Danielle Hudson’s research attempts to identify which early-blooming plants ground bees pollinate in the Driftless Area of Wisconsin. Learn more about ground bees from Hudson.