Top 3 plants to grow for bees

  • Last updated: 28 November 2022
The best plants to attract bumblebees have been revealed, after gardeners across the country (from the Orkneys to the Scillies) used an app to record bee sightings.
Bumblebee on echinacea.

The three flowers most visited by bees were viper’s-bugloss, teasel and toadflax, according to data from the Blooms for Bees app, created by Coventry University scientists in partnership with Garden Organic.

Blooms for Bees is the only bumblebee surveying app to record the flower being foraged as well as the insect. “This has given us a fascinating and vital insight into the flowers that are most popular with bumblebees," comments Judith Conroy, a researcher with CAWR. “Our results are really important to us because they have come from gardeners themselves recording and photographing what they see. Before, most of the information we had was anecdotal evidence.

“The species of plants that came out top were not necessarily those which are most widely recommended . The information from gardeners has opened new doors for us and helped improve our knowledge of how to make gardens and allotments more bumblebee friendly.”

Results from the app also found the top three bumblebees spotted by gardeners were the buff-tailed bumblebee, the common carder bee and the red-tailed bumblebee. A total of 15 different bumblebee species were photographed by gardeners, (including two - the ruderal bumblebee and moss carder bee - which are listed as national conservation priorities).

Its unique focus on gardens and allotments aims to improve recommendations of which flowers to grow more of to help support dwindling bumblebee populations by increasing important sources of nectar and pollen. There has been a well-documented decline of certain bumblebee species within the UK – with two becoming extinct in the last 70 years.

The free app, easily downloaded for IOS and android systems, was developed by experts at Coventry University’s Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR). More than 500 people submitted 3,011 bumblebee photographs and 2,218 plant surveys during the past year. The app encourages a five minute survey to identify the bumblebees seen in gardens and record which flowers they visit. It features a detailed identification guide which includes all 25 UK bumblebee species, and makes it easy for the user to submit photos and data.

The £100k project was co-funded by the university and the Heritage Lottery Fund in partnership with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Garden Organic and the Royal Horticultural Society.