Attracting Bees

and Other Beneficial Insects with Florida’s Native Wildflowers

Landscaping with Florida’s native wildflowers and plants provides refuge for birds, bees and butterflies while creating “habitat highways” through urban settings.

Florida’s bees

Florida is home to more than 300 species of bees. They vary in size from 2 to 25 mm, and range in color from brown, black or red to metallic green or blue.

In Florida, bees are active most of the year. Most nest in well-drained soil that is sparsely vegetated, but others nest in trees or other sources of wood, or plants with hollow stems. They may nest in spring and again in summer months.

Some bees are “specialists,” relying on a single wildflower species or family for food. Most, however, are “generalists” and gather pollen and nectar from a wide range of flowers.

Most native bees are solitary and are not usually aggressive as they are not defending a hive like the honey bee or other colonial bees. However, solitary bees may sting if surprised or threatened.

More than 80 percent of flowering plants and food crops are pollinated by insects. While gathering pollen and nectar for food, bees carry pollen from one flower to another, ensuring plant reproduction. This pollination syndrome (process) has evolved over millions of years.

Bee on purple aster flower
Bee on Georgia aster (Symphyotrichum georgianum) by Eleanor Dietrich

Planning your bee garden

Create a corridor between fragmented natural habitat and provide beneficial forage resources for foraging bees and insects.

  • Choose sunny open areas with well-drained soil.
  • Plant 15–25 species for maximum diversity.
  • Plan to have at least three species in bloom each season.
  • Include flowers of different sizes and shapes to attract a variety of bees.
  • Plant 5–7 of each wildflower species in clusters to maximize visibility to insects.
  • Include blue, purple, violet, white and yellow flowers, which bees prefer.
Bee characteristics
Illustration of a bee
  • Hairy bodies with constricted waists
  • Two pairs of wings
  • Long antennae and long tongues
  • Pollen-carrying structures on hind legs or lower abdomen

Gardening practices

Avoid or minimize the use of pesticides. Use natural repellants like garlic or citrus oil, or pheromone traps to discourage pests. Be aware that broad application can be harmful to beneficial insects.
Create nesting sites. Leave open sandy patches for ground-nesting species. Let hollow-stemmed plants remain during the winter. Leave brush piles and use clumping grasses such as Lovegrass (Eragrostis species), Wiregrass (Aristida stricta) and Muhlygrass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) for nesting sites.
Provide homemade bee boxes.

Other insects

Wildflowers may attract other insects that provide natural pest control or pollination services, or serve as food for a variety of other organisms. Look for spiders, beetles, flies, wasps and true bugs in your garden and consider their duties in the ecosystem. They may provide pollination services or be a food source for lizards, birds or other insects.

Great wildflowers for bees and other beneficial insects

The following wildflowers work well in home landscapes and are attractive to bees and other beneficial insects.

Hummingbird clearwing (Hemaris thysbe) on Swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata

Swamp milkweed

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata ) has showy pink flowers that typically bloom in summer and attract many pollinators. It occurs naturally in floodplain swamps, hydric hammocks, wet pine flatwoods and…
Read more… Swamp milkweed


Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a perennial that produces large, showy clusters of bright orange to reddish flowers from spring through fall. It occurs naturally in sandhills, pine flatwoods, and…
Read more… Butterflyweed


Florida greeneyes (Berlandiera subacaulis) is an endemic wildflower found in Florida’s sandhills, pine flatwoods, mixed upland forests, and along dry roadsides. Their bright yellow flowers bloom in spring, attracting a…
Read more… Greeneyes
Hairy chaffhead, Carphephorus paniculatus

Hairy chaffhead

Hairy chaffhead (Carphephorus paniculatus) is a stunning perennial wildflower found in moist flatwoods and savannas. It typically blooms from late August through December, with peak flowering in October.
Read more… Hairy chaffhead
Field to Pineland chaffhead, Carphephorus carnosus

Pineland chaffhead

Pineland chaffhead (Carphephorus carnosus) typically blooms late summer through early fall and attracts butterflies, moths and other pollinators. It is endemic to only 13 Central and South Florida counties.
Read more… Pineland chaffhead

Florida paintbrush

Florida paintbrush (Carphephorus corymbosus) blooms from mid-summer into fall, attracting butterflies and other pollinators. It occurs naturally in sandhills, pine flatwoods, scrubby flatwoods, mesic flatwoods and ruderal areas.
Read more… Florida paintbrush
Vanillaleaf flower


Meet Vanillaleaf, the odiferous Carphephorus! Perhaps the most telling of common names, Vanillaleaf refers to the vanilla-like scent that the plant’s wilting leaves emit when crushed.
Read more… Vanillaleaf

Partridge pea

Partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata) is a larval host for several butterflies, including the Gray hairstreak and Cloudless sulphur. The plant is also used by bees, ants, flies, wasps, birds and…
Read more… Partridge pea
Purple thistle flower

Purple thistle

Purple thistle (Cirsium horridulum) is a larval host for the Little metalmark and Painted lady butterflies. The seeds are an important food source for seed-eating birds.
Read more… Purple thistle
False rosemary

False rosemary

False rosemary (Conradina canescens) occurs naturally in sand pine scrub and sandhills. Many pollinator species are attracted to false rosemary, but bees are the most prominent visitor.
Read more… False rosemary
Lanceleaf tickseed flower

Lanceleaf tickseed

Lanceleaf tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolata ) has conspicuously sunny flowers that typically bloom in spring. It attracts butterflies and other pollinators, and its seeds are eaten by birds and small wildlife.
Read more… Lanceleaf tickseed

Corn snakeroot

Corn snakeroot (Eryngium aquaticum) typically blooms summer through late fall. Its spiny blue to lavender flowers attract a plethora of pollinators, especially bees.
Read more… Corn snakeroot
Carolina cranesbill flowers

Carolina cranesbill

Carolina cranesbill (Geranium carolinianum) is an annual native wildflower that occurs in lawns, urban gardens and disturbed areas throughout Florida. It is often considered a weed, but its winter- and…
Read more… Carolina cranesbill
Common sneezeweed, Helenium autumnale

Common sneezeweed

Common sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale) is an herbaceous perennial with cheerful yellow flowers. It typically blooms spring through fall, attracting moths, butterflies, bees and other pollinating insects.
Read more… Common sneezeweed

Lakeside sunflower

Lakeside sunflower (Helianthus carnosus) is a perennial wildflower endemic to northeast Florida that inhabits open sunny edges of lakes and marshes. The beautiful bright yellow flowers attract a variety of…
Read more… Lakeside sunflower

Rayless sunflower

Rayless sunflower (Helianthus radula) is a unique member of the Helianthus genus—its ray florets are almost entirely absent. It blooms spring through fall and attracts a variety of pollinators.
Read more… Rayless sunflower
Dune sunflower bloom

Dune sunflower

Dune (or beach) sunflower (Helianthus debilis) typically flowers in summer, but may bloom year-round. Its bright yellow flowers attract a variety of pollinators, including butterflies, moths and bees.
Read more… Dune sunflower
Palamedes swallowtail on Dense gayfeather, Liatris spicata

Dense gayfeather

Dense gayfeather (Liatris spicata) has striking spikes of purple flowers that bloom late summer through fall and are excellent attractors of butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects.
Read more… Dense gayfeather

Snow squarestem

Also known as Cat’s tongue, Salt and pepper and Nonpareil, Snow squarestem (Melanthera nivea) typically blooms summer through early winter, but can bloom year-round, attracting bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
Read more… Snow squarestem
Mimosa strigillosa

Sunshine mimosa

Sunshine mimosa (Mimosa strigillosa) has showy “powderpuff” flowers that bloom spring through summer, attracting mostly bees. The plant is a larval host for the Little sulphur butterfly.
Read more… Sunshine mimosa
Spotted beebalm flowers.

Spotted beebalm

Spotted beebalm (Monarda punctata) is a robust, aromatic wildflower known to attract a huge variety of pollinating insects, including bees, wasps and butterflies. It blooms from early summer through fall.
Read more… Spotted beebalm
Frogfruit flowers


Frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) is both a versatile and vital wildflower. This evergreen perennial is low-growing and creeping, often forming dense mats of green foliage.
Read more… Frogfruit
Starry rosinweed flower

Starry rosinweed

Starry rosinweed (Silphium asteriscus) is a robust perennial with showy yellow blooms. It occurs naturally in flatwoods, sandy pinelands and disturbed areas and attracts a variety of pollinators.
Read more… Starry rosinweed
Seaside goldenrod flower stalk with bees

Seaside goldenrod

The conspicuous golden blooms of Seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) are found on dunes, in tidal marshes, bogs and sandy flatwoods, along roadsides and in disturbed areas in Florida’s coastal counties…
Read more… Seaside goldenrod
Bee on purple aster flower

Georgia aster

Georgia aster (Symphyotrichum georgianum) is a magnet for bees and butterflies. Its flowers are distinguishable from other Symphyotrichum species by their relatively large size and deep violet-colored ray petals.
Read more… Georgia aster
Climbing aster flower

Climbing aster

Climbing aster (Ampelaster carolinianus) is a robust vine-like shrub that produces many fragrant daisy-like lavender to pinkish blooms. It is an excellent nectar source for many butterflies and bees.
Read more… Climbing aster
Spiderwort flowers.


Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis ) flowers attract many pollinators, especially bees. Like all species in the dayflower family, the flowers are ephemeral, meaning they stay open only one day.
Read more… Spiderwort

Forked bluecurls

Forked bluecurls (Trichostema dichotomum ) have dainty yet distinctive bluish-purple flowers. They are short-lived, opening only in the morning, but individual plants may produce thousands of flowers throughout a season…
Read more… Forked bluecurls
Frostweed flowers


Frostweed (Verbesina virginica) typically flowers late summer through fall along moist forest and hammock edges throughout the state. It is attractive to many bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
Read more… Frostweed
Great Southern white on Tall ironweed, Vernonia gigantea

Giant ironweed

Giant ironweed (Vernonia gigantea) is a robust perennial wildflower that blooms in summer and fall, with peak blooming in July. It attracts many pollinators, particularly butterflies.
Read more… Giant ironweed