Here you will learn about which flowers and plants are great for attracting insects to your prairie garden in Alberta!
Monarda Fistulosa, aka Bee Balm
Yesterday I was strolling around my yard, admiring the vibrant black eyed susans and other late blooming plants.
Then I noticed the incredibly ragged appearance of my bee balm, mildewy with mostly dead flowers and sparse leaves. I thought, “I’m going to have to cut those down ASAP because they really look horrible.”
(I know it’s better to leave things up for the winter and cut back as necessary in late spring, but in this case, I thought the appearance of the plant was simply too unsightly to leave it.)
HOWEVER, as I stepped closer, I noticed the humming and buzzing of bumblebees and other bees, as well as innumerable little moths that were enjoying the remaining blossoms.
So then and there, I decided the bee balm must stay, ugly though it is!
Autumn Joy Sedum
I decided to meander around and check out which other plants were attracting hosts of insects. Autumn Joy Sedum is one of my favorites for the garden and apparently also a favorite of the bees!
Although not a native plant, I choose to plant Autumn Joy because it’s not invasive and it provides year round interest and structure to the garden. In addition, it requires minimal maintenance (besides division every few years), and is drought tolerant.
Absolutely buzzing with activity! There were also numerous ladybugs that would crawl and hide underneath the flowers. I could sit there for hours and take it all in. Did I mention how stunning this plant is in all its fall glory?!
The oregano (not sure which variety it is, or even if it’s edible) is also very popular with the insects.
These may all sound, look, and act like bees (below) but can you tell that many of them are actually flies?!
Bees vs. Flies
You can tell them apart by their wings. Bees have four wings and fold them over their body when not in use, but flies only have two and they do not fold them in over their body. The most visible ones in this video appear to be hover flies.
Hover flies, often known as syrphid flies, are an important beneficial insect that we don’t hear much about. Their larvae will control aphids, scale insects, thrips, and caterpillars. The adults are excellent pollinators, as they buzz around sipping nectar out of flowers.
Rudbeckia Hirta, aka Black Eyed Susan
This photo was taken at sunset, when most insect activity had ceased for the night, but Black Eyed Susans are also a favorite with the bees. They do self-seed quite liberally, but the seedlings are easy to pull. And they are absolutely stunning in fall, so I highly recommend planting some to increase pollinator visits in fall!
My asters are tiny still, with few flowers, and therefore the insect activity isn’t huge there yet. I expect they will be popular though!
I would recommend adding at least one variety to your garden for fall blooms to attract insects. Asters are one of the latest blooming native plants in our neck of the woods (or should I say, in our neck of the prairies…?!).
I chose a variety of goldenrod (Solidago simplex) that I didn’t realize was an earlier bloomer than most goldenrod! So it’s gone to seed for awhile already.
Choose your variety carefully, but goldenrod is an excellent addition for an autumn garden that is well loved and visited by insects.
To create a space where an abundance of little flying critters can thrive, it’s best not to use pesticides and herbicides in your yard! But do plant a variety of native flower and grass species that will support your native insect (and arachnid!) populations.
Their hums and buzzes and intricate webs will add life and interest to your garden and you can feel fulfilled, knowing you’ve done your part in caring for the earth.