If you are growing sunflowers in your garden, you might be wondering whether they produce nectar that will feed the insects. We all know we need to be helping out the insect population, so are sunflowers a good option?
Sunflowers are a wonderful choice for your garden if you want to help out the bees and other insects because they produce a lot of nectar. They also produce pollen that the bees can eat, which is a rich source of food.
In this article, we’ll explore how sunflowers attract bees and other insects, how the insects pollinate the flowers, and why sunflowers are such a good plant to grow.
Do Sunflowers Have Nectar?
Sunflowers do produce nectar to attract insects to pollinate them, and because they are such big plants, this is an enormously beneficial thing – it ensures that the insects have plenty to eat. If you grow sunflowers, you will often see bees crawling back and forth over their surface.
The process works as follows:
- The plant produces nectar that has a sweet scent and advertises the nectar by creating large, golden-yellow petals to signal to the insect that it has food.
- The bee lands on the plant to collect the nectar (which it will use to make honey), and at the same time, it picks up pollen, either deliberately or accidentally. The pollen is also food, providing an important source of protein for the baby bees.
- The bee flies to another flower to collect more nectar and more pollen, and this spreads the pollen from flower to flower, because some will inevitably fall off the bee when it lands on the next sunflower.
- The second sunflower will be fertilized by the addition of pollen and can create seeds that will grow the following year.
This process is used by plants everywhere, and sunflowers are no exception – but they are large and tend to be generous with the amount of nectar and pollen that they produce. This makes them an excellent choice for growing in your garden, where they will add to the food available to your insect inhabitants.
Additionally, sunflowers are particularly good for bees because they are bright yellow. Bees struggle to see reds and red-like colors, so they will be able to find your sunflowers more easily – in part because of the color and in part because they are so big. This should help to ensure that the insects find plenty of food in your garden.
What Is Nectar?
Nectar is a sugary fluid that many plants make to encourage both insects and animals to come to them and collect pollen. The pollen can then be spread to another plant of the same kind, as described above.
This sugary liquid tends to be very popular with all kinds of creatures because it is a great source of energy. It contains mostly sucrose, glucose, and fructose, but it also contains small amounts of protein, plus acids, salts, and essential oils.
This benefits the creatures that feed on it, which encourages them to keep approaching those plants and transporting the pollen.
Which Insects Feed On Sunflower Nectar?
Although bees are particularly attracted to sunflowers, a whole range of insects will benefit from the presence of these plants. You may see butterflies, beetles, flies, and others feeding on the sweet liquid.
This means that sunflowers encourage a range of biodiversity in your garden, ensuring that many different kinds of insects can find food. These insects will in turn feed various birds in your garden – and the sunflowers themselves will also feed the birds when they start to flower. Finches in particular love picking the seeds from the flowerheads.
Growing sunflowers is a wonderful way to increase the richness of life in your garden, and provide food to a wide range of different creatures.
Why Are Sunflowers So Important For Bees?
Returning to the bees, there is another reason that sunflowers are so important, which we touched on earlier. Sunflowers provide the bees with pollen as well as nectar, and this is very important because it feeds the young.
The bees will gather up the pollen and return to their hive with it. It can then be given to the baby bees, and because it is rich in protein, it will help them to grow strong. If the bees cannot find enough protein sources, they will struggle to maintain a colony, and the whole hive may die.
Sunflowers that produce food late in the fall will also help to keep the queens alive, as they need to feed intensively before they settle down to sleep for the winter. If they don’t consume enough fat when the weather starts to turn cold, they will die.
Insects in general will benefit from the presence of sunflowers, but they are particularly helpful for bees, so consider planting these magnificent, showy flowers in your garden.
Do All Sunflowers Produce Nectar?
Although almost all sunflowers produce nectar, it’s important to check before purchasing seeds or plants, because some varieties do not produce nectar or pollen. They may have showy petals, but they don’t provide a source of food.
In general, hybrid versions of sunflowers should be avoided, because they may have been bred to be pollen-less. This is an attempt by the grower to make the consumer buy more – since the flowers can’t reproduce the way that non-hybrids can.
There are many different kinds of sunflowers, so check the variety that you are thinking of buying beforehand, and make sure it is genuinely insect friendly.
Most kinds of sunflowers produce both pollen and nectar, which makes them a wonderful plant to grow for the sake of the bees and other insects in your garden. They also offer pollen, which allows bees to feed their young. With their bright yellow, showy petals, these can massively increase the biodiversity in your garden.