Why aren't bees or butterflies coming?


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I have ticseed flowers, Mexican heather, and zinnias; but no bees or butterflies. At the nursery, the bees were loaded on the Mexican heather, so I bought one plant and none are coming to my garden. I admit I'm only growing one of each plant (except zinnias) but pollinators aren't coming. I have 7 milkweed plants, and butterflies are laying their eggs on it. Why don't they stay for nectar?
 
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JBtheExplorer

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I don't know much about the plants you named. Butterflies and bees tend to prefer certain nectar sources over others. Maybe the plants you named aren't what they're looking for.

You said that bees were all over the Mexican Heather at the garden center, but your one plant doesn't get any bees. Pollinators tend to like a large amount of the same nectar source so they can go from flower to flower. With only one plant, there's limited nectar being produced.

At the side of my house, I have one Purple Coneflower. I see the occasional bee on it, but it never gets busy. Then I head to the backyard where I have 20+ Purple Coneflower plants and they are super busy with pollinators of all kinds.
 
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I suspect JB is right about having a bunch of the same types of plants.

Also, maybe proximity to their preferred type of habitat? I planted three large butterfly bushes a couple of years ago and have not seen a single butterfly! (Lots of bees in my garden though.)

My neighbor one block away planted a single butterfly bush at the same time I did and has lots fluttering about.
 

MaryMary

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I do think part of the problem is that you only have one of each plant... I've done some reading and apparently bees search for flowers on the fly. (...:ROFLMAO: Forgive the pun, you know I can't help myself.:rolleyes:.) If there's not enough to see or smell as they fly by - they just won't notice it.

Here are some articles I found really interesting. The excerpts shown relate more to your question, but really the whole article is worth the read! (y)

Like us, bees are trichromatic. That means they have three photoreceptors within the eye and base their color combinations on those three colors. Humans base their color combinations on red, blue and green, while bees base their colors on ultraviolet light, blue and green. This is the reason why bees can’t see the color red. They don’t have a photoreceptor for it. They can, however, see reddish wavelengths, such as yellow and orange. They can also see blue-green, blue, violet, and “bee’s purple.” Bee’s purple is a combination of yellow and ultraviolet light. That’s why humans can’t see it. The most likely colors to attract bees, according to scientists, are purple, violet and blue.
http://www.beeculture.com/bees-see-matters/

And another one:

Compared to humans, bees have awful acuity. Unlike the large lenses in human eyes, bees have multi-faceted compound eyes that focus well up close, but not from further away.

"They only really see flowers when they get reasonably close, maybe less than 50 or 60 centimetres," Dr Dyer said.

This means bees use scent, rather than sight, to find flowers from a distance.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/science/...refer-have-flower-colours-preferences/7959382

The second article states that bees prefer blue and white flowers, so YMMV.
 
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Well, unfortunately, I don't have much space, so it's either load up on as much as varieties as I can, or choose one or two really good flowers and mass plant them? It seems like the second option will yield best results. Now, which flowers do I choose? I think I should only have zinnias and bee balm. Do those sound like good choices?
 
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I suspect JB is right about having a bunch of the same types of plants.

Also, maybe proximity to their preferred type of habitat? I planted three large butterfly bushes a couple of years ago and have not seen a single butterfly! (Lots of bees in my garden though.)

My neighbor one block away planted a single butterfly bush at the same time I did and has lots fluttering about.
Hmm. I think that's also a reason. The problem is that my backyard is waterfront. Invasive Iguanas thrive there and will eat any plant they can get their mouth on. That's why my plants are at the front of these house in containers. The containers themselves are on brick floor which I can see how that is also causing problems.
 
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Tuesday, August 29, 2017


My personal observation is that butterflies are attracted to larger groupings of flowers. The biggest attractant in my yard seems to be my bee balm. Mine started as three separate plants a few years ago, but now they have all merged into one giant mass that needs separation.It attracts an enormous number of bees and other pollinators. I also have milkweed for the monarchs. It took several years, but it propagated and spread enough that they are now attracting butterflies that lay eggs. I am in New England where the milkweed flowers earlier in the season. In my yard the flowers are gone by the time the caterpillars hatch in late August and early September. The butterflies lay eggs on the milkweed, but feed on my other plants. Bees and (I believe) butterflies as well, are attracted more by scent than color. You should keep that in mind when choosing plants. If you want butterflies, you should mix host plants in with the nectaring flowers. Remember that different types of butterflies are attracted to different types of post plants. The Internet is overflowing with information on the topic.


Be patient! My experience is that it may take a couple of years to attract the insects that you want.

Good luck,
DiMart
 

JBtheExplorer

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or choose one or two really good flowers and mass plant them? It seems like the second option will yield best results. Now, which flowers do I choose?

I'd definitely choose one or two and mass plant them. You can always add one or two stand-alone species for added color.

If I were to make a recommendation when it comes to pollinators, I'd suggest planting Blanket Flower, and there's a few reasons for it. First and foremost, it attracts tons of pollinators. Bees more than anything, but I see butterflies, such as Monarchs and Red Admirals on them quite a bit. Hummingbirds get curious but I've never seen them stick around it. It's one of the busiest plant species I have. Equally as important, they have a long bloom season. Around here, they start flowering in early June and continue all the way until frost, especially when deadheaded, so they'll provide nectar for pollinators for 4 or 5 months! If not deadheaded, they still seem to produce flowers for a few months. They also grow from seed super-easy, and look great in mass plantings. They can self-seed and help fill in any gaps when some die off. Around here, the seedlings often start growing in Autumn and get killed by winter, so I collect the seeds and scatter them in Spring.

Bee Balm is great for pollinators. Butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds are all attracted to Monarda fistulosa and Monarda didyma. It is worth noting that the bloom season is short, though, usually lasting no longer than a month.
 

JBtheExplorer

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017
I also have milkweed for the monarchs.
I grow Common Milkweed, Whorled Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed, and Butterflyweed.


I get the most pollinators on Swamp and Butterflyweed. I also get the most caterpillars on those two. Swamp Milkweed tends to attract larger pollinators like various Swallowtail butterfly species, wasps, and Bumble bees. Butterflyweed tends to attract smaller pollinators like sweat bees, leaf cutter bees, and hoverflies. I especially like the Metallic Green Sweat bees that are attracted to it.

Milkweed is necessary for Monarchs to lay eggs, and necessary to keep their population as stable as possible. Just found this caterpillar on Swamp Milkweed yesterday.
IMG_6219 copy.jpg
 
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Wow. Thank you! I will definitely consider growing blanket flowers now. I didn't know bee balm only flowered for a month.

I currently have tropical milkweed.
 
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