A great way to help native bees is to provide bee-friendly flowering plants in your yard. While most plants bloom in the spring and summer -- not coincidentally, when bee populations are at their height -- there are some winter bloomers that are an important source of nutrition in the cold, grey part of the year. This heather (Erica spp.) is a low-growing evergreen shrub that blooms from mid-November through mid-February in Western Oregon. On mild, sunny winter days, queen bumblebees are frequent visitors (can you spot the Bombus vosnesenskii in the picture?), along with non-native honey bees (Apis mellifera). Having a year-round food source helps keep the bee population strong and gives a boost to the overwintering queens when they start their new colony in early spring. Heathers come in a range of shades from white to pink to purple; once established, they're very low-maintenance. They don't need summer watering and they don't have problems with pests or diseases. Pruning is only necessary if you want to keep them small. So plant a heather and feed your winter bees!

 

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