Have you ever wondered, while gazing at a vibrant field of sunflowers, if bees are attracted to their radiant blooms just as much as we do?
Sunflowers boast majestic yellow-petaled flowers and large flowerheads filled with nutritious pollen and sweet nectars.
But do bees like sunflowers? The answer is YES.
In fact, both of them benefit from the relationship. Hence, it’s safe to say it’s symbiotic.
But what bees are attracted to sunflowers, and why are our busy buzzing buddies so drawn to these breathtaking offspring of nature?
In this article, we’ll dig deeper into the relationship between sunflowers and bees and answer the questions:
- why do bees like sunflowers?
- how can sunflowers benefit from these pollinators?
- and what bee species are attracted to their blooms?
And if you’re looking to add sunflowers to your bee-friendly garden, this will help you not just with what sunflower species to choose but also how to grow them.
So, without further ado, let’s dig in!
Do Bees Like Sunflower Plants?
Yes, in fact, planting sunflowers are a surefire way to attract pollinators, not just humans.
Even flies, wasps, and birds love their blooms.
Sunflower, which is scientifically known as Helianthus annuus, is distinguishable because of its distinct tall green stalks and large yellow blooms with yellow, green, or brown coloration at the center.
Since their flowerheads are about 12 inches in diameter, there’s a lot of space for pollination and feeding.
Furthermore, these large flowers bloom for six to twelve weeks so they can satisfy bees’ needs.
Do Honey Bees Like Sunflowers?
Yes, honeybees love visiting and collecting nectar and pollen on sunflowers.
It provides a valuable food source for them as well as other insects and bees.
In fact, honeybees are among the most active and effective in pollinating sunflowers.
Do Bumble Bees Like Sunflowers?
Bumble bees, including the solitary ones, also like sunflowers and the resources it offers.
However, while they’re attracted to this flower, they can’t compete with honeybees in terms of sunflower pollination.
Why Do Bees Like Sunflowers?
Now, you may be thinking, “Why do sunflowers attract bees?”
Well, bees are so drawn to them because of the things their blooms provide, which include:
One of the main reasons why sunflowers are attractive to bees is the nectar sunflowers provide.
Nectar is the sweet, sticky substance that bees suck from the bottom of the flower.
Since sunflowers have large heads and thousands of tiny flowers or petals at the center, it offers lots of sweet nectar to bees, which they use to make honey.
Then, after an intricate and repetitive process of making honey, they store it so they can have something to eat during winter when they can’t forage for food.
However, since bees need lots of nectar to produce honey, they still need supplemental feeding after visiting sunflowers.
2. Pollen Grains
Each anther in a sunflower’s head contains hundreds of pollen.
And bees use it to get protein and energy to travel back to their home. Bees also share it with their larvae.
Although the pollens produced by sunflowers aren’t protein-rich, the advantage is that it makes lots of pollen.
So bees can enjoy it abundantly.
3. Bright Color
The yellow blooms of sunflowers are visually appealing to these pollinators.
Aside from yellow, bees also like purple, blue, and white blooms.
They can’t see red because they don’t have a photoreceptor for that color.
But they can see blue, green, and different combinations of colors at the ultraviolet’s end.
Another factor that draws bees to sunflowers is the sweet scent of their blooms which attract bees from miles away.
Bees love sweet, floral fragrances, so they enjoy landing and hopping from one sunflower to another.
5. Medicinal Value
Aside from supplying food for these buzzy pollinators, sunflower pollen also provides medicinal benefits to bees.
According to a study, sunflower pollen can drastically and consistently reduce protozoan pathogen infection in bumble bees and microsporidian pathogen in European honey bees.
Therefore, planting sunflowers in agricultural and native habitats is beneficial for pollinators because it provides natural resistance to pathogens.
Since the petals of sunflowers aren’t deep and tubular in shape, short-tongued bees can easily access their pollens and nectars.
And that’s one of the reasons why bees like sunflowers.
Although bumblebees have longer tongues, sucking on sunflowers makes their food-collection process so much easier.
Best Sunflowers For Bees
When choosing a sunflower variety for bees, we want those that provide abundant food for these hard-working pollinators.
While the newer varieties have spectacular colors that go beyond yellow and orange and look great in a garden, these special hybrids are actually pollen-less.
While they’re good for people with allergies, they’re not highly beneficial for bees.
So which among the 70 different species of sunflower is best for bees?
1. Lemon Queen
We’re kicking off this list with the lemon queen sunflower, which, as the name suggests, has lemon yellow petals combined with a chocolate disk, a combo that is surely irresistible for bees.
It’s a fast-growing, branching type of sunflower that produces small to medium size petals and reaches 7 and half feet to at most 9 feet in height.
Furthermore, it’s easy to grow and can endure dry conditions. It can produce flowers just 100 days after sowing.
Since it gradually produces multiple branches and flowers over time, this bloom provides continuous blooms over a long period.
2. Mammoth Grey Stripe
If the previous sunflower isn’t tall enough for you, then this sky-high variety might be the one for you.
The Mammoth Grey Striped sunflower grows up to 10 feet tall but can grow taller up to 12 feet if the environment and weather conditions permit.
These giant sunflowers can tower your garden and can feed not just bees but also birds and other random pollinators with their large seeds, nectar, and pollen.
The flowers’ heads can measure around 11 inches across.
Since they’re very tall, they need staking to support the base of the stalk.
3. Vanilla Ice
If you opt for softer, light yellow-colored sunflower blooms, this may be the one for you.
This creamy sunflower variety won’t just add a pop of soft color to your garden and tabletop arrangement but also to your salads and desserts.
Yes, you read it right!
The sunflower buds of this bloom are edible and taste bittersweet, like artichoke hearts.
You can grill, marinate or sauté them to make a unique appetizer or side dish.
This small sunflower variety which humbly stands at 4 feet, is easy to grow and drought-resistant.
So, they’re perfect for smaller gardens. But it also needs lots of water to thrive even more.
4. Black Russian
This variety is actually native to North America but commercialized in Russia.
If Mammoth Grey is not giant enough for you, Black Russian sunflower might sweep you off your feet.
This sunflower can grow around 12 to 15 feet tall and produce large flower heads with a diameter of 8 inches.
Its disk is large enough to provide a large pollen feast for bees, butterflies, birds, and other pollinators.
Aside from the pollen and nectar, the seeds of this flower provide food for wild birds.
What we like about this variety is its seeds are rich in oil, and it’s easy to grow and maintain.
Furthermore, it’s drought-tolerant and edible.
5. Autumn Beauty
The name Autumn Beauty is fitting for this sunflower because it combines the earthy shades of:
- rusty orange
- burgundy red
It reminds us of the wonders of the fall season!
This branching flower stands at around 6 feet tall, making them a perfect addition for small gardens and home landscapes.
Due to its interesting color combinations, it’s more visible and attractive for honeybees.
It’s hardy and blooms for longer periods of time, so you and your bees can enjoy it more.
6. Yellow Pygmy
This classic sunflower variety has yellow lemon petals paired with a dark disk.
Its selling point is its minimalistic beauty that’s perfect for flower arrangements and bouquets.
Since it only grows around 1 to 2 feet, it doesn’t require much space and will thrive even in small gardens.
And just like other varieties, the Yellow Pygmy provides food for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
7. Giant White Seeded
True to its name, this giant can grow up to 14 feet tall, and its flowerheads can grow up to 19 inches in diameter.
What makes this colossal plant unique is its white seeds that make a tasty snack for birds and people.
Yes, you can eat the large white seeds of this sunflower.
On top of that, it produces high-quality sunflower oil that provides a wide range of health benefits.
8. Dwarf Yellow Spray
This compact, vibrant yellow sunflower, as its name suggests, is dwarf compared to the previous entrees. It only grows up to 2 feet.
But don’t underestimate their blooms because they’re pollen-packed and provide sufficient nectar and pollen for bees.
Their flowers have the perfect size for summer bouquets, and their green buds taste like artichokes when sautéed with butter and eaten.
9. Henry Wilde
Another classic heirloom that can magnetize bees, birds, and other pollinators into your garden is Henry Wilde.
This may seem ordinary, but the delicate yellow petals and dark center disk of this flower create a simple yet beautiful contrast.
It provides pollen and nectar to pollinators, and goldfinches, cardinals, chickadees, and other birds love its seeds.
On the other hand, the flowers are perfect as ornaments for your home.
10. Earthwalker Sunflower
We’re wrapping up this list of sunflowers for bees with the burnt version that signals the beginning of fall.
Just like the Autumn beauty, this variety boasts earthy tones of burnt orange, copper brown, rusty red, and mahogany.
It stands at 6 feet tall and is perfect as a border or backdrop.
But how can sunflowers benefit from bees? Can these buzzing creatures be of any help to these radiant blooms?
Can Bees Pollinate Sunflowers?
Sunflowers can pollinate themselves, but wind also plays a part in their pollination.
Strong wind can carry the pollen grains in small petals, and then pollination occurs.
But if you’re wondering if bees help, YES, they can.
These hardworking pollinators usually open sunflower’s anthers and style to allow the pollen grains to travel downward and start the fertilization process.
But some of the pollen sticks to the bees.
And when they move to another sunflower, they inadvertently carry and deliver them to other sunflower blooms, thus giving way to cross-pollination.
After that process, the sunflowers’ fertilization commences, and each pollinated floret transforms into seeds that can be harvested and used in different products.
Now that you know bees can highly benefit from every sunflower bloom, you may be considering adding it to your garden to attract pollinators and birds.
But how can you grow sunflowers in your garden? Worry no more because we got some care tips for you below.
Tips on How to Grow Sunflowers for Bees
Before planting, consider the space you have and make sure your chosen variety, whether giant or dwarf, fits your target bee species’ needs.
Here are other tips when planting sunflowers for bees to ensure they thrive and produce lots of nectar and seeds.
- If you want to enjoy sunflower blooms for a longer time, plant different varieties of sunflower.
- As its name hints, sunflowers love the sun, so put them in an area with lots of sun. Make sure they have at least 8 hours of sunlight per day.
- Since sunflowers have extremely expansive roots, ensure the soil is either slightly acidic or alkaline and that the soil isn’t compact.
- Despite being hardy and drought-resistant, sunflowers still need lots of water to grow and thrive more. So, water them regularly for faster and better growth.
- If you opt for giant sunflower varieties, you must prepare stakes to support the stem.
- Plant them in large groups to make a sea of sunflowers. It’ll surely be spectacular! It will also help provide support for the stems, especially during the windy season.
- And lastly, avoid using pesticides on the flowerheads because they can poison bees.
Other Animals That Are Attracted to Sunflowers
Aside from bees and insects like butterflies, ladybugs, and wasps, sunflowers also attract the following animals:
- rats and mice
- and rabbits
These animals like to feed on the edible seeds of sunflowers, while others visit their blooms to hunt for flies.
FAQs About Sunflowers and Bees
Can bees use sunflowers?
Yes! Sunflowers offer an abundant source of food for bees and other insects like butterflies and wasps.
Their nectar is the main ingredient for honey. Additionally, their pollen contains protein and provides energy for bees.
What flower do bees like the most?
One of the best flowering plants for bees is bee balm, which is a member of the mint family.
Other attractive flowers for honeybees are wild white indigo, purple coneflower, black-eyed Susan, Joe-pye weed, and Marsh blazing star.
What does a sunflower look like to a bee?
Sunflowers that grow from 1 to 3-meter stems appear to have uniform yellow rings of petals with brown centers.
But bees that can see ultraviolet colors see sunflowers as bullseyes with a dark center and lighter edges.
That’s why pollinators are so drawn to this flower.
Can bees make honey from sunflowers?
Yes, because sunflowers produce nectar which bees store in their honey stomach and use to produce the highly-coveted sweet, sticky substance.
But the amount of nectar each sunflower may produce depends on its variety and size.
Can you eat sunflower honey?
In fact, raw sunflower honey is one of nature’s best superfoods and provides antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
It also contains a wide range of health-boosting metabolites.
Do Bees Like Sunflowers: Final Recap
It’s plain to see that bees and sunflowers have a symbiotic relationship because they both benefit from each other.
Sunflowers provide nectar, pollen, and medicinal benefits for bees, while bees help pollinate these radiant flowers.
Bees use the nectar they collect from sunflowers to create honey, which they can store and use during the cold season.
But although the large sunflower heads seem like a large buffet for pollinators, they still need to supplement nectar by feeding on other nectar-rich blooms.
However, since sunflowers are abundant in pollen which gives energy and protein to bees, they’re still worth the visit.
But not all sunflowers are rich in nectar and pollen.
Therefore, you must choose the right sunflower species to keep your pollinators happy.
Now that we’ve answered the question, “Do bees like sunflowers,” you may be planning to add this radiant flower to your garden.
But aside from sunflowers, what other flowers are perfect for attracting pollinators to your gardens?
Check our article below to find an extensive list of bee-magnetizing flowers.