Honeybees and their many relatives make life sweet for us. Without bees many of our favorite foods and flowers would not be available. From apples to ornamentals to zuchinni, we rely on bees for pollination. According to the USDA, one-third of our diet is made possible by insect pollinators, and approximately 80 percent of that pollination is due to bees. By planting long blooming, drought-resistant Salvias and other flowering plants favored by honeybees and other species of the family Apidae, home gardeners can provide the nectar and pollen that these tiny pollinators need to survive.
Drought is causing shortages of many flowering plants on which bees survive. Food loss, both through drought and climate change, is one of many factors that bee researchers say is likely contributing to Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious malady that weakens honeybees and causes their destruction. The Natural Resources Defense Council notes that bee researchers began documenting this problem in America around 2006.
The HÃ¤agen-Daz Honey Bee Haven of the University of California, Davis, in July 2014 reported that "few plants show their value as bee plants for hot, dry gardens better than the salvias." UC Davis even includes red-flowering species among its bee favorites, although some bee researchers say that bees mostly can't see reds.
Many factors affect the predilections of honeybees, including markings on flowers -- sometimes called "beelines" -- that guide bees to the pollen and nectar they need. Unlike humans who can't see colors in the ultra-violet range, bees see UV colors including markings invisible to people but acting like lit-up runways for insects. Perhaps this characteristic enables them to access red flowers.
This list offers honeybee favorites in many colors grown at Flowers by the Sea.
(Elk Raspberry Moose Sage) The deep raspberry flowers of this Salvia x Jamensis look good enough to eat, like spoonfuls of a silky, mouthwatering mousse dessert. Yet the 'moose' in its name isn't a misspelling. It refers to flowers that are larger than normal for a Jame Sage.
(Elk Smokey Grape Jame Sage) We think the dusky lavender flowers of Salvia x ‘Elk Smokey Grape’ look like the dusty, pale reddish-blue of Malbec grapes. This is a floriferous beauty.
(Elk Xanadu Jame Sage) Like the magical, fictional land of Xanadu, there’s something heavenly about this sage. The flowers of Salvia x ‘Elk Xanadu’ look ethereal due to the bluish cast of their magenta-pink blossoms supported by deep magenta and green calyxes. It's a powerful attraction for pollinators, including hummingbirds.
(Scarlet Spires Sage) This is a brilliant cross between the sturdy D'Arcy's Sage (Salvia darcyi) and the beautifully colored 'Raspberry Delight' Littleleaf Sage (Salvia microphylla 'Raspberry Delight').
(Shell Dancer Sage) So many sages combine resilience and loveliness. This includes Salvia 'Shell Dancer', which withstands heat and drought yet has delicate looking blossoms and lush green foliage.
(Tangerine Ballet Hybrid Jame Sage) Soft pinkish-orange flowers with contrasting yellow eyes make this Jame Sage look as tasty as sorbet. Hardy to at least 10 degrees F, Tangerine Ballet is also heat tolerant, drought resistant and long blooming-- all marks of Salvias in the closely related Autumn and Mountain Sage group.
(Wild Meadow Sage) Meadow sages are native to Europe and include many hybrids. This lush, purple-flowered plant is a wild species that most likely is a hybrid of two ancient sages -- Salvia nemorosa and Salvia pratensis.
(Blue Milkweed) It's not unusual to see the sky-blue, star-shaped flowers of Tweedia caerulea tucked into bridal bouquets. Yet they are members of the humble milkweed family Asclepiadaceae.