Bees are attracted to sunflowers due to their bright, yellow petals that emit UV light that bees can see. Sunflowers also have a beautiful scent that bees can detect. Sunflowers are full of nectar that the bees collect. Bees will pollinate the flowers as they visit each one helping them to set the dark, black sunflower seeds ready for next years crop.
Planting sunflowers in your yard at spring will mean that your garden will be a haven for bees. They will visit to collect the pollen and will also help to pollinate your fruit trees, tomatoes and strawberries.
Sunflowers are easy to grow from seed. They can be planted straight into the ground in spring and by summer you will have large, tall flowers ready to feed the bees. Large sunflowers can grow 6 feet high or more so make sure you have the space before planting.
If you have a smaller space or want to grow sunflowers in a pot, look out for dwarf versions. They will still have large flowers but will only grow 2-3 feet tall.
This article will explore the top ways to attract bees to you yard using the simple sunflower. They are easy to grow, bright, colorful and a favorite of bees.
Why bees are attracted to sunflowers
Sunflowers have large heads that are actually filled with thousands of tiny flowers. In the center of the flower are tiny petals and each one has delicious nectar at its center. Bees visit to collect the nectar and move pollen from flower to flower.
Sunflowers are bright and have a sweet scent that the bees can detect. Bees don’t actually see color but will see the UV light emitted from the flower which attracts them as they are flying by. Once the scout bees from a hive find a sunflower they will communicate its location to the rest of the hive using a ‘bee dance’.
What kinds of bees like sunflowers?
Sunflowers attract a range of bees including:
- Honey bees
- Blue banded bees
- Leaf cutter bees
- Carpenter bees
- Teddy Bear bees
- Digger bees
- Sweat Bees
- Mason Bees
These bee species love sunflowers because they are full of nectar that is easy to reach. Bees can land on the inner flowers to collect the nectar and move pollen.
The bee and sunflower relationship
Bees and sunflowers have a close relationship that benefits both species. Sunflowers attract bees to support their pollination. Bees will visit the flower to collect nectar that they take back to their hive to turn into honey.
Sunflowers benefit from this relationship because as the bees collect the nectar, they will get pollen stuck on their bellies and legs and will move it to other flowers to pollinate them. The pollen is picked up from the male anther and moved to the female pistil in each flower.
When pollination happens successfully the sunflower will develop seeds in its center to reproduce and grow the next generation in the next spring. We can collect sunflower seeds to plant the next year, eat them ourselves or feed them to our parrots.
Do bees hang around sunflowers?
When I grew a large crop of sunflowers there were always visiting bees on them in the summer. Bees would come, collect the nectar and fly back to their hive. It seems that there were usually bees on the flowers but they were not the same bees hanging around. New bees from the hive would come to visit when the others were flying back to return the nectar to the hive.
While there were always a few bees around, there were never enough to cause any problems or to attract a swarm. To be safe, plant sunflowers away from your house or areas outside where people are eating and drinking.
Top 3 ways to attract bees to your yard with sunflowers
Planting sunflowers in your yard is a great way to attract bees. Here are my top tips for planting sunflowers to attract bees and increase pollination for your fruit trees and vegetable garden.
1. Plant sunflowers in the corners of your yard
A great way to attract passing bees is to plant sunflowers in the corners of your yard. These large flowers will attract passing bees that are travelling to their know flower sources. This could be a local park or neighbor’s yard.
By planting sunflowers in the corners of your yard you can grab their attention and get them to stop by yours. After they visit your sunflower they will buzz around giving them the opportunity to see other summer flowers that need pollination in your yard like tomatoes, peppers, strawberries and cucumbers.
2. Companion plant sunflowers
The three sisters concept is to plant corn, pumpkin and beans altogether. They form a close relationship that helps the growth of each plant. A great tip is to add in some sunflowers with this mix or plant them on the outside of the bed.
Sunflowers will help to attract bees to pollinate the pumpkin and beans. You can even train the beans to grow up the sunflowers like they would the corn stems.
3. Grow dwarf sunflowers in a pot
Sunflowers are large, beautiful plants but if you don’t have room you can grow dwarf sunflowers in a pot. Dwarf sunflowers are usually available in seed form from your local garden center or online. They are easy to grow by seed in pots.
Simply fill the pot with good quality, all-purpose potting soil and plant the seeds approximately half an inch below the surface of the soil. Water regularly until the seeds start to sprout.
Once sunflowers are a foot high they are drought hardy but those growing in pots will need more water than those in the ground. Place them in a full sun position in your yard near fruit trees or your vegetable garden.
How to Attract Bees with Sunflowers | Summary
Sunflowers will naturally attract bees to your yard due to their bright petals and delicious scent. Bees will feed on the nectar inside each of the thousands of tiny flowers that grow in the center of the outer petals. Bees are a fantastic addition to your yard and are essential for fruit pollination to increase crop production.
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.