Number 19 in our series of postings and part of our CAMPAIGN TO KNOW YOUR WILD BEES.
Here we illuminate the problem that many gardeners face… What do I plant? Weeds and other garden plants sometimes attract tons of bees, is this helpful? Well, it is helpful in that many bees come to these plants to forage on pollen and even the specialist bees will come to for the quick energy that nectar provides . However, similar to birdfeeders, most of these plants are feeding the bees that are doing quite well; the sparrow and pigeon bees if you will. Native plants, on the other hand, have had millions of years to synchronize with the local wild bee fauna. As such, there’s a great deal of specialization and general community membership that goes beyond bees, these are plants that have numerous associations with other native denizens of our wild scapes, other insects, bacteria, fungi and interplay with plant communities that foster many uncommon and rare species. Without these native plants a good deal of our native bees would disappear and bringing with them would be many other plants and animals. So, it makes most sense to start your gardens with native plants and backfill with some of the traditional plants that you will love.
This lovely female, in fresh plumage, is relatively easy to identify simply by the orange brown color of its body hairs along with the nearly black hairs located on its hind legs which it uses to carry pollen to its nest. However, after it’s been out in the sun for several weeks it can also turn the same off-white coloration that most of the other Andrena bees have in this group. This is a bee of tree flowers. In particular, it favors Willows, but can be found on a wide variety of spring blooming woody plants, though seemingly avoiding the heath family, which has its own specialists. This bee was photographed by Sue Boo and collected in Harford County Maryland.