How To Help Bumble Bees

Bumble Bee, Bombus disambiguation Bumble bees are very important pollinators that are large, fuzzy insects with short, stubby wings. While other animals pollinate, bumble bees are particularly good at it. Their wings beat 130 times or more per second and the beating combined with their large bodies vibrates flowers until they release pollen, which is called buzz pollination. Buzz pollination helps plants produce more fruit.

For a complete Bumble Bee profile: Wisconsin Native Bumble Bees.

Bumble bees are an excellent alternative to honey bees and are a supplemental source for pollination of many crops. There are several attributes of bumble bees that promote their use as pollinators. Some bumble bees have long tongues, These long tongues give bumble bees an advantage over short-tongued bees like the honey bee when foraging on flowers with long tubes, such as red clover. Not surprisingly, the petals of bumble bee flowers often form elegant, elongated bells, funnels, or tubes, with the nectaries hidden deep inside. In some species, the nectar is hidden at the end of a long, hollow floral structure called a Springur. In these ways, the plants make sure that the precious liquid gets only to the bumble bee, the animal most capable of accomplishing pollination.

Bumble bees have been shown to fly in cooler temperatures and lower light levels than many other bees, extending their work day and improving pollination of crops facing inclement weather.

Bees can’t see the color red, and to them it looks much like the surrounding green foliage. However, they are highly attracted to shades of purple, blue and yellow. Plants with flat, single blossoms are easiest for the bees to access. Although double blooms are beautiful, bees have difficulty reaching the nectar inside the flowers.

Native Trees and Shrubs

Blueberries: Spring
Dogwood: Spring
Elderberry: Summer
Huckleberry: Spring
Willows: Spring

Native Wildflowers

Blazing stars: Summer, Fall
Columbines: Spring
Great blue lobelia: Summer, Fall
Joe pye weed: Summer
Lupines: Spring, Summer
Milkweeds: Spring, Summer, Fall
Monkshood: Summer, Fall
Penstemons: Spring, Summer, Fall
Sunflowers, Fall
Turtlehead: Summer, Fall
Violets : Spring, Summer
Virginia bluebell: Spring
Asters, Fall

Further Information:

Bring Back Wisconsin Native Thistles
Wisconsin Bee Identification Guide
Spring Wild Bees of Wisconsin
Bumble Bees of Wisconsin
Wild Native Bee Nest Boxes

Why Do Plants Produce Nectar?

Plants had to solve a problem: they needed to find ways to spread their genetic material. Flying pollinators were nature's solution. Nectar is made as a reward for pollinators.

Bee Quiz

Take this quick quiz and see how much you know about bees—our favorite essential pollinators working around the world. This quiz is intended for fun, in a random-facts-can-be-cool kind of way.

Spring Pollinator Plants

Spring begins andhungry pollinators are on the wing, looking for food. From the moment emerge in spring to the time that they hibernate or migrate in the fall, pollinators need to eat.