March 24, 2013

Maine Gardener: Bee proactive: Plant smart


(Continued from page 1)

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Acer (maple)

Amelanchier (shadbush)

Anchusa (bugloss)

Bergenia (pigsqueak)


Malus (apple)

Prunus (cherries and plums)

Pulmonaria (lungwort)

Salix (willow)

Viola (violet, but perhaps not pansies)


Agastache (anise hyssop)

Asclepias (milkweed)

Borago (borage)

Echinacea (coneflower)

Liatris (blazing star)

Mentha (mint)

Oreganum (oregano)

Rosa (roses)

Spiraea (spirea)

Tagetes (marigold, especially single French types


Aster (many wild asters)

Clethra (summersweet)

Cosmos (pink cosmos)

Gentiana clausa (bottle gentian)

Echinacea (purple coneflower)

Phlox (summer phlox)

Rudbeckia (yellow coneflower)

Solidago (many wild goldenrods)

I asked Drummond about bee balm, which he had not mentioned but because of its name I thought would be good for bees. It turns out that bee balm, with the scientific name Monarda, was misnamed.

"Bee balm is not a good bee plant," he said. "It is good for hummingbirds, and butterflies are attracted to it, and they also are good pollinators, but not for bees."

Drummond said there are many different theories about why native bees are in trouble.

One is because of climate change. Bumblebees like a cool climate, and the temperatures have been warming. Also, bees do not thrive well in forests, and the percentage of forests in the state has been growing as farms are abandoned.

Also, he said, a type of insecticide called neonicotinoids could be killing off the bees.

Another theory is that the native bees are suffering from the same pathogens that cause colony collapse disorder in honeybees.

He said none of the theories have been proven, as yet, but research is continuing.

In addition to having the right plants, homeowners can help bees by floating wood in a birdbath to give bees a landing platform and providing bee habitat. 

For information about bees, go to and click on any one of the fact sheets listed. For information about the Maine study, email To contact The Honey Exchange, call 773-9333 or visit

Tom Atwell has been writing the Maine Gardener column since 2004. He is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth and can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

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