Bee Balm Named Official Pollinator Plant of Howard County

June 2020

Howard County became a Bee City in 2019. In June, 2020, the Howard County Bee City committee held an on-line vote to decide the Official Pollinator Plant of Howard County.  Out of 5 candidates bee balm was the winner!

The outdoor, socially distanced event at the Howard County Conservancy was attended by County Executive Calivin Ball and members of the Bee City committee. Children at nature camp also attended and learned about pollinators. Several members of the media also attended and reported on the event. Check out the TV coverage:

Local CBS TV news

Local FOX TV news

Learn more about Pollinators and Bee City here.

The native pollinator plant contenders were:

ASTER (Symphyothrichum species) At least a dozen species of asters light up Howard County in autumn and beckon monarch butterflies on their journeys to Mexico. Pearl crescent butterfly larvae feed on asters, and some native bees rely on pollen of frost aster (S. pilosum) and other late-season blooms to provision their nests. Smooth blue aster (S. laeve) attracts bees and butterflies, and aromatic aster (S. oblongifolium) is more deer-resistant than its relatives.

BEE BALM (Monarda species) Bee balms’ gorgeous, long-lasting flowers are irresistible to pollinators, while their scent deters mammal browsing. Scarlet bee balm (M. didyma) explodes like fireworks around the Fourth of July and attracts ruby-throated hummingbirds and spicebush swallowtail butterflies. Lavender-colored wild bergamot (M. fistulosa) draws long-tongued bees, butterflies, skippers, hummingbird moths, and hummingbirds.

GOLDENROD (Solidago species) We can’t say it enough: These aren’t the flowers that make you sneeze. Yet they’re sorely underplanted because of this mistaken identity. That’s unfortunate for monarch butterflies, who need goldenrods in autumn as much as they need milkweeds in spring. Goldenrods also feed 115-plus caterpillar species; dozens of native bee species rely on the pollen. Shorter goldenrods include (Solidago flexicaulis), which grows well in part shade, and the sun-loving gray goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis).

JOE PYE (Eutrochium species) If you see a tall pink wildflower covered in butterflies and bumblebees in midsummer, you’re likely looking at Joe Pyes. A feast for adult pollinators, these plants also feed caterpillars of 40-plus species. In Howard County, you’ll find moisture-loving hollow Joe Pye (E. fistulosum) and spotted Joe Pye (E. maculatum). Sweet-scented Joe Pye (E. purpureum) can tolerate drier soil and a bit more shade. Coastal plain Joe Pye (E. dubium) is often planted in gardens because of its shorter stature.

MILKWEED (Asclepias species): Well-known for being the exclusive host plants of monarch butterfly caterpillars, milkweeds are also magnets for other butterflies and bees. Easy-to-grow species include the tall common milkweed (A. syriaca), with large, globe-shaped blooms and a penchant for drier soils; the shorter pink-flowered swamp milkweed (A. incarnata), which prefers wet low-lying areas; and orange butterflyweed (A. tuberosa) which grows in sunny spots and beautifully fronts garden borders.

MOUNTAIN  MINT (Pycnanthemum species) Plant mountain mint, and you’ll probably discover insects you’ve never seen before. For many weeks, the flowers buzz with almost every kind of pollinator. The scent makes the plants unpalatable to deer but attractive to people. A great spreader, clustered mountain mint (P. muticum) is easy to thin and share with friends. Slower spreaders available at nurseries include narrow-leaved mountain mint (P. tenuifolium) and Virginia mountain mint (P. virginianum).