Native Plants for the Bees–Butterfly Weeds

Since the bees are in so much trouble–colony collapse disorder and all–I thought I’d showcase some native plants–and one non-native–this week that are absolute bee magnates.  But these natives don’t just attract honeybees–which after all are European imports.  They attract our native bumble bees and sweat bees, and some lovely non-stinging wasps (well, all wasps sting, but these really have to be provoked to do it).

So let’s start with a surprising choice–butterfly weed, aesclepias tuberosa and our native milkweed, aesclepias incarnata.  Most folks grow these for the monarchs, right?  Of course!  They are the larval food of the monarch butterfly, and they host the milkweed bug as well.

But take a look here on this aesclepias tuberosa ‘Hello Yellow’ (great name, isn’t it?)

This honeybee seems pretty happy on this plant–it doesn’t seem to know that it’s for the butterflies.

And here, on the lovely native milkweed, aesclepias incarnata

This one’s a little harder to see, but on the lower left of the taller of the two flowers, a golden digger wasp is happily harvesting pollen. These are gentle wasps, ground dwelling, that really have to be provoked to sting.  They harvest cicadas and katydids and leave them in their burrows for their young to eat upon hatching.  And they return year after year.  Nice wasps to have.

You can easily walk by one of these wasps if she’s digging her burrow (even in sandals).  She may fly up to look you in the eye but I’ve never been stung in all the years I’ve had them around my home–and successive generations of them have nested in the walkway to my door so I’ve had to negotiate them to get in and out of the house at times!

There are many good reasons to plant butterfly weeds–now you have another!

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