Addition of floral resources to agricultural field margins has been shown to increase abundance of beneficial insects in crop fields, but most plants recommended for this use are non-native annuals. Native perennial plants with different bloom periods can provide floral resources for bees throughout the growing season for use in pollinator conservation projects. To identify the most suitable plants for this use, we examined the relative attractiveness to wild and managed bees of 43 eastern U.S. native perennial plants, grown in a common garden setting. Floral characteristics were evaluated for their ability to predict bee abundance and taxa richness. Of the wild bees collected, the most common species (62%) was Bombus impatiens Cresson. Five other wild bee species were present between 3 and 6% of the total: Lasioglossum admirandum (Sandhouse), Hylaeus affinis (Smith), Agapostemon virescens (F.), Halictus ligatus Say, and Ceratina calcarata/dupla Robertson/Say. The remaining wild bee species were present at <2% of the total. Abundance of honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) was nearly identical to that of B. impatiens. All plant species were visited at least once by wild bees; 9 were highly attractive, and 20 were moderately attractive. Honey bees visited 24 of the 43 plant species at least once. Floral area was the only measured factor accounting for variation in abundance and richness of wild bees but did not explain variation in honey bee abundance. Results of this study can be used to guide selection of flowering plants to provide season-long forage for conservation of wild bees.
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