Bees, Butterflies and Birds

One of the many joys of gardening is to enjoy the wildlife that is attracted to our flowers, shrubs and trees.  Your garden is their very best friend.  Creating desirable conditions in your landscape by providing shelter, water and food sources (flower nectar) will help attract the many wonderful and fulfilling nature sightings right in your own very back yard.


Colorado is home to many species of wild bees that are native to North America. Except for bumblebees and some sweat bees, our native bees are solitary, not so­cial, many with just one annual generation that coincides with bloom by their favorite floral hosts. In contrast, the familiar honey­bee is highly social, has perennial colonies, and was brought to North America by settlers from Europe. Regardless of these differences, however, all of our bees need pollen and nectar from flowers. The sugars in sweet nectar power their flight; mother bees also imbibe some nectar to mix with pollen that they gather. Pollen is fortified with proteins, oils and minerals that are es­sential for the diets of their grub-like larvae back at the nest.

Our flower gardens can become valuable cafeterias for local populations of diverse native bees. In our cities and towns, native plant communities have been displaced by pavement, buildings and lawns. In the countryside, grain and hay crops likewise offer our native bees little food. Because bees find their favorite flowers by their color or scent, a bee garden can also be appealing to the homeowner. Many of these flowering species are surprisingly easy to grow.

Researchers have identified that perennial flowers tend to be far more attractive to bees than annuals. Many different types of perennials are good for bees, from showy flowers to herbs. Herb gardens are an excellent resource for bees because they flower over a long period of time, and herbs grow fairly large and produce lots of flowers.


Make a yard more attractive to butterflies by providing the proper environment, where there can be food plants used by the immature stages (various caterpillars), food sources used by the adult butterflies, and physical environment.  Most butterflies prefer some shelter from the high winds common along the Front Range. At the same time, they like open, sunny areas. Windbreak plantings or other means of sheltering the butterfly garden can help provide a suitable physical environment.

Providing the necessary food plants for the developing caterpillars also allows production of a “native” population that can be observed in all stages of development. Most species, however, fly away as adult butterflies.

Food for adult butterflies usually consists of sweet liquids, such as nectar from flowers that provide energy. Some flowers contain more nectar, and are more attractive to butterflies. Often, specific types of flowers and flower colors also are more attractive.

When planning a garden, create a large patch of a flower species to attract and retain butterflies. Consider flowers that bloom in sequence. This is particularly important during summer when flower visiting by butterflies is most frequent.


The best way to attract birds is to provide food, water, and shelter from our strong winds.  Trees and shrubs provide shelter and depending upon the type, possibly food.  Offering bird’s water in a birdbath is a huge attraction for many birds to sip and bathe.

Research has shown the black oil sunflower seed is one of the preferred foods for many wild birds. You can purchase a tube feeder at a reasonable price and fill it with sunflower seed to attract finches, chickadees and others. Juncos and jays prefer to feed on the ground, and will feed on seeds that have fallen from the tube feeder, or you can sprinkle seed on the ground especially for them. Be aware that this practice might also attract squirrels, and rabbits.
Birds such as flickers, woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches, are attracted to suet. You can purchase a special feeder that holds blocks of suet.

There are several types of hummingbirds that live in Colorado. The most common is the broad-tailed hummingbird. Others that we may see from time to time include rufous, calliope, and black-chinned hummingbirds. During the summer we see hummingbirds most frequently in the foothills and the mountains, because they nest in these areas.

It is a little harder to attract hummingbirds to our gardens than it is to attract butterflies. First of all, the garden must be visible to them from 30 to 50 feet overhead. The colors must be vivid in order to catch their eyes on their migratory trips from mid-April to mid-May and again from mid-July through September.

Please visit Creek Side Gardens Annual Courtyard and Perennial Pathway to see which bee, butterfly and bird attracting flowers and plants may fit into your garden plans.  Our Green Team will help you sort them out and provide you our Pollinator, Butterfly or Hummingbird Plant List 2016.