attracting wild pollinators

Autumn Joy beginning to bloom


This has been a season of firsts. I love to try new things and this year I’ve experimented with new styles of pollinator housing, three new types of comb honey supers, new honey bee feeders, new watering methods, and many new bee plants. Of all the bee plants on my list, I was most excited about Autumn Joy sedum.

Last winter as I collected the data for the Plant Lists, I was continually amazed at how many folks listed Autumn Joy as one of their top bee attractors. I had never even heard of it but quickly went out and purchased six plants and then further divided them until I had a bunch. All summer I had to protect them from my husband’s projects, which included flying pieces of wood, ballooning stretches of tarp, air-borne shingles, tipped ladders, and dropped tools. Somehow, the plants (and my husband) survived the summer and now as fall approaches, a few of the Autumn Joys are beginning to bloom.

The first bee arrived with the first blossoms (Yay, it’s working!). Unlike the sunflowers, the Autumn Joy are down near the ground where I can actually photograph them. Also unlike sunflowers, they come without a dark center—there’s nothing like a brown bee on a brown background for an impossible portrait.

My first Autumn Joy visitor was a small carpenter bee, Ceratina. These little sprites give me anxiety disorder—they are super small and fast and seem to quiver in the air, vibrating as they approach a flower. They look like they need to inhale deeply. In fact, they make me so nervous I find myself holding my breath as I watch them. I suppose all the extraneous movement protects them from being eaten, but it sure makes them hard to photograph. Luckily, the Autumn Joy held this one’s interest long enough for me to get a shot.


Small carpenter bee (Ceratina) on Autumn Joy sedum. © Rusty Burlew.


Discover more from Honey Bee Suite

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.


  • Hello Rusty. I’m a first year beekeeper and I enjoy your blog and have learned many useful things. I’m responding to this post on sedum because it led me to another interesting subject; predators to bees. Looking for more information on Autumn Joy led me to a post on about someone who discovered dead bees on Russian sage plants. The final analysis was that an assassin bug was the culprit. I’ve also observed dragonflies and a bird called a red tangier catching my bees in mid-air. It would be interesting to know what other dangers lurk out there for foraging bees.

    • Ken,

      Lots and lots. Hornets, yellowjackets, beewolves, mantids, spiders, frogs, lizards, snakes, many birds . . . and my dog eats them too. But I think humans are worst, with their pesticides.

  • Hi Rusty,
    I can’t seem to find a good place to post this question… My neighbor has several marijuana plants (legal here). Are my bees likely to visit the plants? If so, could there be an impact on the bees or honey? This sounds like a stupid question to me… but here goes… stoned bees? THC in the honey? It’d be just what I need – to fail a urinalysis due to THC in my honey. This is one neighborly issue I never thought I’d face when I started my journey as an urban beekeeper.

    • Karen,

      Cannabis is a wind-pollinated plant. Since wind-pollinated plants have no need to attract pollinators, they generally do not produce nectar because nectar production is expensive from an energy point of view. So if a plant doesn’t need pollinators it generally does not produce nectar. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few bees sample the flowers, just to see what’s there, but I can’t imagine they would get anything from it. Honestly, I don’t think you need to worry. I did check “Honey Plants of North America” by Lovell and it’s not listed as a honey plant.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.