Academic research has shown that diverse flower seed mixes provide the most benefits to bees and pollinators compared to mixes with just one to several flower species. It is important to choose flower species that are known to be attractive to pollinators which will greatly enhance the efficiency of these mixes. Flower mixes should contain early, mid- and late blooming flowers to ensure there is food for bee species that are active for only a short time during the growing season. In addition, include flowers with varying colors, shapes and sizes in order to appeal to the widest variety of pollinators as possible.
Applewood Seed Company has studied the attractiveness of native and non-native flower species before developing their pollinator seed mixes. Our diverse pollinator mixtures are available for home and commercial garden use, conservation mixes for NRCS programs, and all native wildflower mixes for various regions of the U.S:
As there are over 4000 species of bees in the U.S., each one has its own feeding and behavior patterns. Some bee species are short-lived and are active during a short part of the growing season. These species need flowering host plants that bloom when they are active. Other species, such as honey bees, are active throughout the growing season, and they are generalist feeders, utilizing nectar and pollen from a wide variety of flowering plants, however, generalist bees have clear preferences when it comes to shape and size of flowers. Some native bees are specialist feeders, preferring a few plant species or sometimes even just a single plant species. Specialist native bees make up about 20% of bee species. Generalist native bees can forage on numerous native plant species as well as many non-native plants.
Other types of pollinators include wasps, flies, beetles, moths, butterflies, hummingbirds and bats. These can have specific flower preferences as well. Butterflies prefer flat flower surfaces that make it easier to land upon. Sphinx Moths have very long tongues and tend to feed on flowers with deep nectar tubes such as columbine and honeysuckle. Hummingbirds also have long tongues and prefer tubular flowers such as Cardinal Flower or Beardtongue, and some flies are the exclusive pollinators of certain plant species of the high alpine tundra.
Applewood Seed Company has spent many years researching the flower preferences of pollinators in our trial gardens. Using our research in conjunction with academic research and knowledge about pollinator characteristics, we’ve found many flowers that are preferred by distinctly different groups of pollinators. For example, the flowers below are included in our Bee Feed Seed Mixture and can be found in a number of additional pollinator mixes. You can read about the types of pollinators that are typically found on them, and then click on the product code or flower image to learn more about each flower.