Bumble Bee Flower Finder

Flowers for Bumble Bees

The Bumble Bee Flower Finder helps you discover the best native plants for bumble bees from the Eastern United States. Find flowers for wildlife gardening, ecological landscaping, and bee monitoring. Under Construction. Email: info@bumblebeeflowerfinder.info.

Pick the right plant (✿) for a place (☼) plus perks (+) by matching and mixing. Select values, check boxes, and/or search for keywords. Reload the page to reset. Click the "Find" button to receive a sortable gallery of species. Click images or names to access species profiles.

Bumble Bees

Bumble bees are charismatic social insects and valuable wild pollinators. There are around 260 species of Bombus (Phylum Arthropoda: Subphylum Hexapoda: Class Insecta: Order Hymenoptera: Family Apidae: Subfamily Apinae: Tribe Bombini) worldwide and 46 north of Mexico. Seven subgenera and 21 species of bumble bees are native to the Eastern United States (Ø).

A queen bumble bee awakes from winter diapause, forages flowers, and founds a nest. Worker daughters eclose during spring, tend the family, and forage to help mom stay at home. [Cuckoo queens usurp established nests.] Males and virgin queens (gynes) mature from summer to fall, feed, and mate. Queens, workers, and sons die during autumn. Mated gynes overwinter and repeat the annual caste cycle.

Bumble bees are diverse in temperate biomes with continuous supplies of pollen and nectar. Female Bombus are pollen generalists (polyleges) who can buzz flowers to extract pollen and gather grains in pollen baskets (corbiculae) on hind tibiae for transport. Both males and social parasite cuckoo bumble bees (Subgenus Psithyrus) feed on floral rewards, but neither have corbiculae nor provision nests.

Over 25% of regional bumble bees are endangered, threatened, or vulnerable. Bombus affinis and cuckoo variabilis are critically endangered, fraternus is endangered, terricola, fervidus, and pensylvanicus are vulnerable, while cuckoo ashtoni and others are threatened or data deficient. You can support bumble bees by planting a preferred selection of particular native plants.

Methods

Records of bumble bees foraging flowers were compiled from books, peer reviewed articles, personal communications or observations, technical bulletins, and websites. Descriptions of plants were compiled from books, manuals, observations, and websites. Images are from Wildflower Search (Authors, Contributors, & Sources). Distributions are from The Biota of North America Program.

The Flower Finder includes native plants for bumble bees indigenous to at least one county of one of 14 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia. Widespread plants with surplus floral rewards who also host native pollen specialist bees were prioritized.

Five ratings (*****–0) were graded for each plant species: bumble bee queens, bumble bee workers, bumble bee males, surplus nectar, surplus pollen, and pollen specialists. Blooms and Bombus caste phenologies were correlated, surplus pounds were estimated, and specialist bee species were summed. Grades were curved and averaged to calculate one overall rating for each plant species.

Synopsis

Fifty-five families, 50 subfamilies, 61 tribes, 145 genera, and 269 species of native plants are catalogued. The most listed family is Asteraceae, subfamily is Asteroideae, tribe is Astereae, and genera are Solidago, Helianthus, and Symphyotrichum. Flowers are often white, pink, or yellow; racemes, panicles, or clusters; lobed, fragrant, or tubular; Blooms are most bountiful during June, July, or August.

Top rated bumble bee flowers are Helianthus, Rudbeckia, Solidago, Symphyotrichum, Dalea, Grindelia, Heterotheca, Monarda, Pontederia, Ratibida, Silphium, and Verbesina. Top rated nectar plants are Liriodendron, Phacelia, Rhus, Robinia, Scrophularia, and Tilia. Both top rated pollen plants and hosts for pollen specialist bees are Solidago, Helianthus, Symphyotrichum, and Rudbeckia.

Pollen grains are commonly yellow, round, or spiny. Fruits are frequently cypselae, capsules, or pods. Roots are regularly rhizomes, fibrous, or taproots. Leaves are oftentimes toothed, hairy, or lance-shaped. Stems are mostly alternate, hairy, or square. Forms are frequently upright, branching, or basal. Growth is generally by seeding or spreading. Cycles are often perennials, shrubs, or trees.

Plants are often 1–3', 2–4', or 3–6' tall and 1–2', 2–3', or 1–3' wide. Light needs are commonly sun (≥ 6 hrs) or part shade (≥ 3–6 hrs), but rarely part sun–shade (≤ 3–6 hrs). Water needs are normally dry–moist, moist, or moist–wet. Soil needs are often well-drained, fertile, sand, or gravel. Zones are usually 6, 7, or 5 in ranges 3–8, 3–9, or 4–9. Habitats occupied are often woodlands, roadsides, or thickets.

Ecoregions inhabited are habitually Eastern Temperate Forests, Northern Forests, or Great Plains. States inhabited are mostly NY, PA, or NJ, while states uninhabited are mainly ME, VT, or NH. Benefits are chiefly medicines, birds, or mammals. Detriments are regularly rare or historic ranges, or normally none. Propagation methods are commonly sowing, dividing, or cutting.

Recommendations

The Bumble Bee Flower Finder can help you: discover the best native plants for plantings; conserve bumble bees and other wildlife; enhance farmland health and ensure crop pollination; determine plant materials needed for landscape designs; and identify flowers for Bombus monitoring. Bumble bee flowers are often keystone species who support ecosystems, regulate detriments, and provide benefits.

Bumble bee queens need both late fall and early spring floral rewards to survive before and after winter diapause. If queens are well-fed with abundant, connected, and continuous supplies of pollen and nectar, then bumble bee families can grow healthy and large. Bigger plantings (≥ 3,600 square feet) host more diverse populations of bumble bees than smaller plantings (≤ 360 square feet).

Bumble bee foraging distances are normally less than half of a mile from nests. Grow plantings at ≤ 0.5 mile intervals to connect bumble bee habitats. Networks of bumble bee gardens can counteract species declines while expanding environmental awareness and education. Our communities can be greenways or homegrown parks for wildlife. Spread the buzz! https://bumblebeeflowerfinder.info.

Disclaimer

Please: know your ecosystems, targeted species, poisonous lookalikes, and follow local laws before harvesting any wild plants at your own risk; Monitor and steward all harvested habitats.

Acknowledgments

Produced by Jarrod Fowler (2022). Programmed by James Edwards. Supported by The Polistes Foundation. Images from Wildflower Search (Authors, Contributors, & Sources). Illustration from Pollinator Partnership. Native American Ethnobotany from indigenous peoples: Abenaki, Accomack, Adena, Akimel, Alibamu, Apache, Appamattuck, Apsáalooke, Arosaguntacook, Arrohatec, Ashiwi, Atsugewi, Aucocisco, Baaja, Calicuas, Chahta, Chalá·at, Chatiks, Chehalis, Cheroenhaka, Chesapeake, Cheyenne, Chickahominy, Chikashsha Yaki, Choctaw, Chowanoke, Corchaug, Coushatta, Cuttatawomen, Dakota, Diné, Ditidaht, Doeg, Eastern Nehântick, Erie, Hammonassets, Haudenosaunee, Havasupai, Havsuwʼ, Ho-de-no-sau-nee-ga, Hoocągra, Hopewell, Hopi, Houma, Hualapai, Inuit, Isleta, Iswä, Jemez, Ka'igwu, Kānaka, Kanienʼkehá꞉ka, Karuk, Kaskaskia, Kauwets'a:ka, Kecoughtan, Keres, Kiskiack, Klamath, Kumeyaay, Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw, Laguna, Lakota, Lekawe, Lenape, Lənape Haki-nk, Lumbee, Mahuna, Maidu, Manahoac, Manissean, Mannansett, Maoli, Massa-adchu-es-et, Massacoes, Massawomeck, Matinecock, Mattaponi, Meherrin, Menominee, Merrick, Meskwaki, Mi'kmaq, Mississauga, Miwok, Mohave, Mohegan, Mohican, Monacan, Moneton, Moraughtacund, Munsee Lenape, Muscogee, Myaamia, Numunuu, Nacotchtank, Nahaganset, Nandtaughtacund, Nansemond, Narantsouak, Natchez, Nauset, Néhinaw, Nentego, Neshnabé, Newe, Niitsitapi, Nipmuc, Nisenan, Nissaquogue, Nlaka'pamux, Nottoway, Nuciu, Nuwa, Nuxalk, O-ga-xpa Ma-zhoⁿ, O'odham, Occaneechi, Occohannock, Očhéthi, Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, Odǫhwęja:deˀ, Oglala, Ohlone, Ojibwe, Omaha, Onawmanient, Onöndowa'ga:', Onundagaonoga, Onʌyote'a•ka, Opiscopank, Osage, Paiute, Pamunkey, Paspahegh, Passamaquoddy, Paugussett, Pawtucket, Payómkawichum, Pennacook, Penobscot, Pentucket, Pequawket, Pequot, Piscataway, Pocomoke, Pocumtuc, Podunks, Pokanoket, Pomo, Ponca, Poteskeet, Powhatan, Pueblo, Quechan, Quileute, Quinnipiac, Quiyoughcohannock, Rappahannock, S’atsoyaha, Saanich, Šakówiŋ, Sanpoil, Saponi, Saura, Secatogue, Secwépemc, Séliš, Setalcott, Shawandasse Tula, Shinnecock, Shoshone, Sqeliz, Susquehannock, Syilx, Tanana Athabaskans, Tlingit, Tohono O'odham, Tsalagi, Tübatulabal, Tunxis, Tuscarora, Tutelo, Unkechaug, Wabanaki, Wailaki, Wangunks, Wappinger, Warraskoyack, Wašišiw, Wenrohronon, Werowocomoco, Weyanock, Wicocomico, WiYaPeMiAk, Wôpanâak, Yat'siminoli, Yavapai, Youghtanund, Yuki, Zuni, ʔívil̃uqaletem, ᏣᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱ Tsalaguwetiyi ...

Thanks to Ask A Bumble Bee, The United States Geological Survey Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Program, The United States Fish and Wildlife Service, A.R., F.U., M.P., R.F., S.E., S.M., T.U. ...

References

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Bumble Bees of the Eastern United States. Genus (Subgenus) species, Common Name. Endangered, vulnerable, threatened, or data deficient. Links to BugGuide.
  1. Bombus (Bombias) auricomus, Black and Gold 
  2. Bombus (Bombus) affinis, Rusty Patched 
  3. Bombus (Bombus) terricola, Yellow Banded 
  4. Bombus (Cullumanobombus) fraternus, Southern Plains 
  5. Bombus (Cullumanobombus) griseocollis, Brown Belted 
  6. Bombus (Cullumanobombus) rufocinctus, Red Belted 
  7. Bombus (Psithyrus) ashtoni, Ashton's Cuckoo 
  8. Bombus (Psithyrus) citrinus, Lemon Cuckoo 
  9. Bombus (Psithyrus) flavidus, Fernald's Cuckoo 
  10. Bombus (Psithyrus) insularis, Indiscriminate Cuckoo 
  11. Bombus (Psithyrus) variabilis, Variable Cuckoo 
  12. Bombus (Pyrobombus) bimaculatus, Two Spotted 
  13. Bombus (Pyrobombus) frigidus, Frigid 
  14. Bombus (Pyrobombus) impatiens, Common Eastern 
  15. Bombus (Pyrobombus) perplexus, Perplexing 
  16. Bombus (Pyrobombus) sandersoni, Sanderson's 
  17. Bombus (Pyrobombus) ternarius, Tricolored 
  18. Bombus (Pyrobombus) vagans, Half Black 
  19. Bombus (Subterraneobombus) borealis, Northern Amber 
  20. Bombus (Thoracobombus) fervidus, Golden Northern 
  21. Bombus (Thoracobombus) pensylvanicus, American 

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