Mason Bee Forage/Flowers

Choose early spring flowering plants since mason bee adults are actively foraging in May and June in New York. Native flowering species are often better choices as they have coevolved with your native mason bees (and thus are more attractive to the bee). Plant diversity is also important as different plant species provide different nutritional components that are essential for bee health. Diversity in plant species also ensures that there are flowers for your bees to visit during their entire life cycle.

Homeowners should note that many of the common bedding plants and bushes available at markets are not preferred or not used at all by bees. Some of these widespread ‘non-bee plants’ are pansy (Viola x wittrockiana), daylily (Hemerocallis spp.), hybrid tea rose, double marigold (Tagetes spp.), petunia, New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri), begonia (Bogonia obliqua), peony (Paeonia lactiflora), forsythia (Forsythia suspensa), and lilac (Syringa vulgaris).¹

Here’s a list of my favorite flowers for mason bees. Please also visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s interactive plant database to suss out more options.

A. Farm Crops
Commercial Tree Fruits (Apples, Apricot, Nectarines, Cherries, Pears, Peaches, Plums)

B. Cover crops (Seed in August/September, blooms in Spring) – till up a bit of your lawn and plant a cover crop. Go to the beach with the extra time you save not mowing!
Turnip (Brassica rapa) and Canola (Brassica napus)

C. Shrubs
Beach Plum (Prunus maritima)
Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis)
Arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum)
Pussy Willow (Salix discolor)
Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana)
Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)
Rhododendron (Rhododendron spp.)

D. Trees
Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)
Crab Apple (Malus coronaria) – avoid sterile varieties
Maple (Acer spp.)
Oak (Quercus spp.)
Dogwood (Cornus spp.)

E. Groundcovers
Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

F. Grassland Species
Indian Hemp (Apocynum cannabinum)
Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron strigosus)
Maryland Hawkweed (Hieracium marianum)

¹ Couto, Andrea V. and Anne L. Averill.  October 2016. A Review on Bees, Northeast Crops Edition. A Review on Bees Northeast Crops Edition