Las Pilitas Nursery

California Native Plants are all we grow!

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3232 Las Pilitas Rd
Santa Margarita, CA 93453
Fri. & Sat. from 9am-4pm
8331 Nelson Way
Escondido, CA 92026
Tues. to Sat. from 9am-4pm

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This website is dedicated to Bert Wilson. His genius continues to inspire us.

Plants to attract bumblebees and other interesting native bees

This is a compilation of our own observations and a little bit of research online. It is a place to start if you want to plant a bee garden or are interested in planting native bee plants to increase native pollinators in your garden or orchard.

California has a diverse bee population

There are one thousand species of California native bees, 26 of these are bumblebees and most of the rest are solitary bees. That is, they do not live in a hive with drones and all the rest. Some bee species are very specific in their needs. Andrena limnanthis Hesperandrena, a native solitary bee, visits only specific species of the vernal pool flower, Meadow Foam, Limnanthes sp. The native bees will prefer natives from their area. Some bees are very restricted in their range and may not know what to do with stuff that is too far removed from their home, even if it is native to California. Many other native bees will work the available flowers that are in the families of flora they are used to.

Bee society and nesting

Solitary bees usually nest in the ground, in holes they excavate themselves or in old rodent holes. A single female will prepare her earthen nest, build a few cells, lay her eggs, and collect pollen for them. Sound familiar?  Although they nest alone, many females may lay in the same area. So if the area is good for native bees you may end up with bumblebee, digger bees and mier bees all living next to each other.  Because many bees nest in the ground, don't disturb the soil by tilling or scraping. These actions will also encourage more weeds. You want clean bare ground with no European grasses, Mustard, Star thistle, etc. Native wild flowers are Ok. See also Digger Bee

California Native bees are excellent pollinators.

California native bees are great for your vegetable garden. The Yellow-faced bumblebee and the California bumblebee are great for Tomatoes. The more pollinators you have the more insect pollinated fruit you will get . (Sorry, bees aren't going to do a thing for wind pollinated stuff.) Try to protect the native plants that support your pollinators. If you don't have any native areas around you can plant a little native garden.

European weeds are preferred by European bees. European honey bees will pollinate your weeds and help them proliferate!


What to plant to attract Native bees

(See plant list on the right)

Try to plant lots of different shaped flowers. Bees vary in body size and feeding parts, so plant accordingly.

A varied diet is always a good thing. Even if you love to eat spaghetti, you don't want to eat it every day.

Try to plant things with different flowering times so there will always be something to eat at your house. Manzanitas are a good plant for early in the season. This is an important time for bees as they have just started nesting and there aren't a lot of things flowering.

Plant many of the same plants together. Don't scatter them throughout the garden. This is more likely to attract the bee's attention and lure them over.

Other native pollinators that might interest you.
Carpenter Bees look similar to Bumblebees.

List of California native plants for bees

Click on the links to purchase the plants or just to get more information about growing conditions, wildlife uses or view picture.

Genera Pages

Arctostaphylos sp. California Manzanitas

Ceanothus sp. California Wild Lilacs

Eriogonum Sp, California Buckwheats

Penstemon sp. California Penstemons

Ribes sp. California Currants and gooseberries

Salvia sp. California Sages

Species Pages

Achillea sp, Yarrow (any species)

Antirrhinum multiflorum, Multiflowered Snapdragon

Calystegia macrostegia, Morning Glory

Chilopsis linearis, Desert Willow

Chrysothamnus nauseosus, Rabbit Brush

Eriophyllum sp., Golden Yarrow

Lobelia dunnii serrata, Blue Lobelia

Lotus scoparius, Deerweed

Mahonia nevinii, Gray Blue Bird Bush

Monardella sp. Butterfly Mint Bush (any species)

Phacelia imbricata, Pine Bee Flower

Sambucus mexicana or S. caerulea, Elderberry

Salix sp., Willow (Any species)

Scrophularia californica, California Figwort

Solidago sp., Golden Rod (any species)

Stachys bullata, Hedge Nettle

Symphoricarpos sp., Snow Berry

Trichostema lanatum or T. parishii, Woolly Blue Curls

A male Bombus vandykei pollinating  manzanita flowers. - grid24_12
A male Bombus vandykei pollinating manzanita flowers.

A small movie of Canyon Gooseberry, Ribes menzesii with a bumblebee.

Bombus californicus is native to California to British Columbia and east to Colorado.  - grid24_6
California Bumblebee, Bombus californicus