Bugs and bees
This is one of my favorite topics.
We’ve tried to create a sanctuary for pollinators and seem to have succeeded. We have 8 acres of land here in western NY, about 5-6 of it has been allowed to go wild and we maintain the rest. We use no pesticides and very limited herbicides. Our “lawns” are full of dandelions, clover, and all kinds of other blooming “weeds.” During clover blooming season I leave large areas uncut to feed the bees. Right now our front lawn consists of queen anne lace, chicory, and some kind of low growing yellow weed that I haven’t been able to identify. We are surrounded by golf courses which presumably use plenty of chemicals, and several of our neighbors have lawn services that apply all kinds of junk every month. OTOH, there are several hundred acres of “organic” farming across the street.
Some plants that I’ve found to be especially good for pollinators include (we focus on perennials and shrubs that don’t have to be planted each year):
– butterfly bush, as others have mentioned. We planted a few and they have reseeded all over the yard. Individual plants don’t last long (I think colder winters kill them) but enough survive that we always have plenty of them.
– some types of hydrangea – bees go nuts over the flowers. They must be types that have “complete” flowers, if they’re sterile types they won’t work. One of the best we have is called Angel Blush, I believe.
– Phlox attracts butterflies, as does bee balm and cardinal flower (hummingbirds too)
– Goldenrod and asters are great fall plants which help bees stock up for winter.
– Daisys of all kinds, such as black eyed susans. These also provide seeds for birds in the fall/winter.
– One of the best plants we have for attracting bees and wasps is gooseneck loosestrife. It is not native if that is an issue for you, and it is also VERY invasive (by roots, not seeds). Plant it in its own bed away from other things. However, it attracts all kinds of bees and wasps, the activity level is incredible. Particularly attractive to “big” wasps like great golden digger wasps and great black wasps, some of which reach really impressive size.
– Finally, vitex is another that is great for bees and butterflies. It is not reliably hardy this far north and gets killed back to the ground most winters (not this past one, though). However, it always sprouts back from the base and blooms profusely.