Scientists call it the mystery of the vanishing bees; here's how to help solve the problem.
With bumblebee populations on the decline in the United States and honeybees prone to a perplexing phenomenon called colony collapse disorder, the search for answers is on. Researchers say the pollinators' problem could be pesticides, or a virus, or the fact that because of land development, there are fewer flowers in the world. That last one is something we can help fix, in our own gardens. This year I'll be planting more of the sorts of flowers bees can't resist.
Above: Bees go after anything in bloom, but are particularly drawn to white, yellow, and blue; they see a color called "bee ultraviolet" that guides them to nectar. Lavender is intoxicating to bees (to us, as well). Lavandula angustifolia 'Violet Intrigue' has long-lasting blooms; it's $15.95 at White Flower Farm. Image via Centsational.
Above: Most beekeepers in the United States and Europe raise Apis mellifera, or western honeybees. For beginners, consider a lightweight Backyard Beehive; it's $339.95, from Williams-Sonona. Image via Botanic Garden.
Above: Salvia, which is drought-tolerant, attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, as well as bees. There are dozens of varieties to choose among; Salvia x sylvestris 'May Night' is one of the few that can survive in colder climates (a set of three plants is $24, from White Flower Farm). Image by Wood Elf Gardener, via Flickr.
Above: A bumblebee gathers nectar from wild lupine; lupinus perennis is also the only plant on which the endangered Karner Blue Butterfly feeds. A packet of 40 seeds is $2 at Prairie Moon. Image by Oya Simpson, via Flickr.