Plants to Attract Bees:
Shrubs, Hedgerows, and Trees

Red-tailed bumblebee (queen) on Berberis.Red-tailed bumblebee (queen) on Berberis.

Hedgerows, Shrubs and Trees for Bees

If you are wanting to include plants to attract bees in your garden, it's easy to forget about trees, shrubs and hedgerows! Yet they provide a number of benefits relating to food and shelter for different species.

Now, if you are looking for general lists of garden plants, herbs, wildflowers, or fruit and vegetables for bees, please visit this page. There there are links to further articles and general thoughts about organic gardening etc, at the bottom of this page.

But for now, back to trees, shrubs and hedgerows.

Why are trees, shrubs, and hedgerows valuable for bees?

Firstly, trees, hedgerows and shrubs can provide nesting opportunities for bees, which may make their nests in abandoned rodent holes found at the base of a shrub, or in crevices and holes within the bark of a tree trunk, or hollow twigs.

Wild honey bee nest in tree trunk.
Location of honey bee nest in tree trunk.

Secondly, they also provide excellent foraging potential.   A decent sized shrub may be densely covered in nectar and pollen-rich flowers. 

Bumble bee on Hypericum bush.Bumble bee on Hypericum bush.

This means foraging is efficient, requiring less energy for the bees to fly about in search of further sources of food. 

Even at the end of the flowering season, trees and shrubs have their value for bees

Even the hollow stems of shrubs can be useful to bees. Tiny solitary bees may overwinter or make nests in them.  For example, the tiny harebell carpenter bee is only about 6 or 7mm in size and can easily be mistaken for a little black fly.  It may create its nests in hollow stems of plants (or even in woodworm and beetle holes). 

Bumble bees meanwhile, may take cover in piles of fallen leaves. 

The lesson is, please take care when tidying your garden.  Perhaps hollow shrub stems could be collected and placed in a corner of the garden or behind the shed rather than burned, for example.

Bumble bee on Escallonia.Bumble bee on Escallonia.

Furthermore, as the bees pollinate the flowers, the flowers develop into fruits, berries and nuts, which are then enjoyed by humans, of course, but also birds and small mammals.

For me, there is nothing better than to watch wildlife in the garden - it provides entertainment, wonder,  and sometimes a bit of natural garden "pest control".

Remember that in some cases, it will also be possible to underplant your trees and shrubs with yet more plants to attract to bees, such as Snake's head fritillary, bluebells, and other flower bulbs

LATE WINTER - SPRING shrubs, hedgerows and trees for bees:

Orange-tailed mining bee on willow catkin.Orange-tailed mining bee on willow catkin.

Acacia (A. dealbata & A. longifolia)
Willow (Salix) - provide an early source of pollen
Manuka (Leptospermum)

Bumble bee on manuka bush.Bumble bee on manuka bush.

Flowering Currant (Ribes)
Broom (Genista)
Alder (A. cordata; A.incana; A. glutinosa)
Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)
Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis)
Winter Honeysuckle  climber great for hedgerows (Lonicera fragrantissima and Lonicera purpussii
Hazels - Corylus (C. avellana, C. maxima) great trees for bees, especially for pollen
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra)

SPRING - SUMMER shrubs, hedgerows and trees for bees:

Honey bee foraging on Rosa rugosa.Honey bee foraging on Rosa rugosa.

Wild cherry (Prunus avium)
Sour cherry (Prunus cerasus)
Joshino cherry (Prunus xyeodensis)

Bird cherry (Prunus padus)
Horse chestnut
Mountain ash (Sorbus)
Hollies (Ilex)
Wild roses and Rosa rugosa
Guelder rose (Viburnum opulus)
Cotoneaster - various species
American lilac (Ceanothus)
June Berry (Snowy mespilus)
Wayfaring tree (Viburnum lantana)

SUMMER - AUTUMN shrubs, hedgerows and trees for bees:

Bumble bee on Hydrangea paniculata.Bumble bee on Hydrangea paniculata.

Common Privet (Ligustrum vulgare)
Hydrangea paniculata
Lime trees - but select careful, because some lime trees are toxic for, or have narcotic effects on bees

AUTUMN - WINTER shrubs, hedgerows and trees for bees

Chinese Euodia (Tetradium daniellii hupehensis)
Ivy - Hedera helix
Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo)

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Try to rethink your use of pesticides.  Did you know, most insect species are harmless or beneficial?

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