Flowers for the Queen (Bee)

Bumblebee queens forage the May flowers of bush honeysuckle. Photo: Kimberly Stoner, Ph.D.

Don’t mistake their small size for lack of importance in our quality of life. Queen bumblebees are among the earliest insects to emerge in our area, and their pollinating activity is critical to both them and us.

And if you imagine that early emergence gives them a leg up on the rest of the bees, think again. It actually poses a problem. The queens are their species’ sole support in April, but very few plants blossom at the same time they emerge.

“The queen needs her own weight in nectar each day. She needs native plants that provide April and May blossoms,” according to Dr. Kimberly Stoner, retired entomologist and bee specialist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven. (

Stoner chaired a Pollinator Habitat Conference each year. At the 2019 event, she emphasized the need to plant foraging habitat that supports all native bees, of which Connecticut has more than 300 species.

Stoner also reported, once again, that research shows a clear link between bee populations and the use of pesticides.

“We need to reduce the use of all pesticides as much as possible, and especially avoid insecticides highly toxic to bees,” she said.

Bumblebees are among the few “buzz pollinators” in the bee world, making them uniquely important visitors to tomatoes, eggplants and blueberries, among other plants. (See a short, remarkable Smithsonian video.)

What can we do for bumblebees? Plant early-blooming trees or shrubs such as American hazelnut, pussy willow, red maple, serviceberry, chokeberry, native cherries, and blueberries.

Among native perennials, plant golden alexanders, golden ragwort (not the same as ragweed), lupine, harebell, blue-eyed grass, Dutchman’s breeches, squirrel corn, beardtongue, and woodland strawberries.

Dandelions, though not native, can also help.

Learn more about bumblebees and other small creatures by reading the full article at Zip06/TheDay.