Which bees visit the city?

More and more people are moving into the cities, causing the urban areas to expand at the expenses of natural areas. A lot of green areas have to make place for new neighbourhoods, making it harder for insects to find food there. Luckily, also in the urban areas there are potential insect-friendly areas such as parks, allotments, waterway sides, roadside flower beds and also your own backyard (Gill et al., 2016)! To make the bees and other pollinators feel at home here, it’s important to maintain these areas and make sure there are some of these insects’ favourite plants present. Are you curious how you can help? Keep on reading!

Figure 1. Pollinator (un)friendly areas in the city

Increase habitat

A habitat is a natural home of an animal. To make the insects feel at home, we have to create and maintain their habitat inside the cities. For insects, there are mainly 2 things needed to make this happen: they need nesting places and plants to feed on. Different plants attract different types of insects. It is important to create a diverse landscape, in order to increase the available food sources for a greater number of pollinator species.

To make our gardens look beautiful, we import exotic plants from all over the world. However, these exotic plants are not as good as native species for local pollinators as they have different flowering times and floral shapes.  We often consider native plants to be weeds. These “weeds” can serve as an important food source for insects. I’m not telling you to transform your garden into a weed field, there are other solutions like using a bee-friendly flower mix. When buying a flower mix, be careful what you choose. Some seed flower mixtures often consist of exotic species. To help you in the right direction, We made an overview of plants that the friendly pollinators might like.  

Bringing people and pollinator together

The plants that are selected are native in the Netherlands and perennial plants, meaning they will stay for more than one year. Some plants are not only nice for the insects but also have additional advantages like herbs or fruits! Additionally, you find some examples of flower combinations, which will make your garden bee friendly all year round! The first combination consists of  plants that acquire moist soil, the second combination prefers dry soil and the last combination primarily consists of edible plants. In this way you can choose which plants may best fit your garden.

A. Plant combination for moist soil

Figure 2. Plant combination moist soils. 1: field larkspu, 2: Oregano, 3: Field scabious, 4: wild strawberry, 5: common soapwort, 6: apple mint.

This combination consists of native, and perennial plants, that flower in spring and in  summer, and are green all year (figure 2; table 1). Oregano and mint leaves are used as herb, strawberry is delicious to eat and Field Scabious and common soapwort are both beautiful plants. All plants attract a wide variety of pollinators. Larkspur is the only annual  plant added to this combination. It provides flowers the first year after sowing the seeds. For all these flowers, it is recommended to keep the ground moist.

B. Plant combination for dry soils

Figure 3. 1. wild thyme, 2: white stonecrop, 3: Chamomille, 4:birdsfoot deervetch, 5: chives, 6: sheep’s bit scabious, 7: purple dead-nettle.

This native plant combination is suitable for relatively dry grounds (figure 3; table  2). It provides herbs like thyme and chives that attract pollinators and are also very useful in the kitchen. White stonecrop is a sedum species, which are easy to keep, resist cold weather, and have beautiful flowers. . The purple dead-nettle is an additional option for the real pollinator fans. The plant is edible, has the major advantage of an early flowering period, and is even able to flower in soft winters. They are however seen as weeds and do only live 1-2 years. Chamomile is also an annual plant, it starts flowering right in the first year. Additionally, chamomile smells good and attracts various wild bee species from the family Megachilidae. Except for Chamomile, all plants are perennial. The birdsfoot deervetch attracts many pollinators including oligolectic species and is beneficial for the plants surrounding it, because of the symbiosis with nitrogen fixing Rhizobium bacteria. Meaning it will provide the plants around with important nutrients.

C. Plant combination with advantages for both the pollinators and yourself!

Figure 4. 1: Bilberry, 2: wild garlic, 3: common heather, 4:common bugloss, 5: perennial peavine, 6: wild sage.

This combination of plants is for people that not only want to help the bees, but also want some useful plants for themselves (figure 4; table 3). These plants provide either herbs or fruits to eat. All plants  attract a wide variety of pollinators. In addition to all the native, edible plants, the perennial peavine has beautiful flowers and attracts many bee species, such as the oligolectic Megachile ericetorum and other species of the Megachile genus. These  bees are one of the most interesting bees to have in your garden. Perennial peavine is not native to The Netherlands, but the wild variety is becoming very common . Wild sage is the native Salvia herb species of the Netherlands. Other Salvia species, such as the Salvia officinalis also attract a lot of wild bee species and can also be a great herb for your kitchen. Heather is added since they are easy to keep, remain small, and most important is the fact that they can still flower during autumn.

In addition to these 3 example combinations, you can find a full list of bee friendly flowers with their characteristics on our website. So if you want to help pollinators in your garden their are a lot of different plant combination that can help maintain green areas for insects’ Now that you know which plants to use, let’s get started!


  • Gill, R. J., Baldock, K. C., Brown, M. J., Cresswell, J. E., Dicks, L. V., Fountain, M. T.,Garratt, M. P. D., Gough, L. A., Heard, M. S., Holland, J. M., Ollerton, J., Stone, G. N.,Tang, C. Q., Vanbergen, A. J., Vogler, A. P., Woodward, G., Arce, A. N., Boatman, N. D.,Brand-Hardy, R., Breeze, T. D., Green, M., Hartfield, C. M., O’Connor, R. S., Osborne, J. L.,Phillips, J., Sutton, P. B., Potts, S. G., & Ollerton, J. (2016). Protecting an ecosystem service: approaches to understanding and mitigating threats to wild insect pollinators. In Advances in Ecological Research (Vol. 54, pp. 135-206). Academic Press.
  • van Breugel, P. (2014). Gasten van bijenhotels. EIS Kenniscentrum Insecten en andere ongewervelden & Naturalis Biodiversity Center.
  • Breugel, P . van (2019). Gasten van bijenhotels. Derde, herziene druk. – EIS ongewervelden & Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden.
  • Websites used to make this table are: Wikipedia.nl, Cruydthoeck.nl, florevannederland.nl, groenrijk.nl, wilde-planten.nl, insectenplanten.nl and drachtplanten.nl.

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