CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Who’s Awake During Spring and How Do We Help Them?

By Sherie Shaffer, Horticulture Agent, CSU Extension-Pueblo County

If you have looked into having a good pollinator habitat in your yard, then you know it is important to have flowers blooming all year long. Often times people have plenty of things in bloom mid and late season, but are lacking those important early season blooms. Many pollinators are up and at ‘em early in the spring and will be on the hunt for pollen and nectar. It’s important to help these early emerging pollinators out by planting things that bloom early.

So, who’s awake early in the spring anyway?   I was wondering that myself. Luckily for me we have a pollinator prodigy in Extension, Lisa Mason, who sent me this helpful list of pollinators that she has seen early in the spring. See if you can spot them in your yard!

  •     Andrena (mining bees)- look for them in bare, undisturbed soil
  •   Queen bumble bees- they overwinter as adults, and emerge early to find food and start a new colony
  •     Mason bees- these mild mannered bees will appreciate your bee hotel being ready in spring
  •      Leafcutter bees- come out a little later in the spring, cut circles out of the edges of leaves
  •      Honeybees- will leave the hive on any day over 50 degrees
  •     Some species of Syrphid flies (flower flies/hover flies)- easily confused for a bee, but have two wings rather than four
  •      Lithurgus apicalis- a cactus bee that is very common on prickly pear cactus

 Andrena, Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University,

Mason bee, Scott Famous, DoD,

Syrphid Fly, Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University,

Now that we know who’s around in the spring, let’s talk about what we can plant to support them. It’s so exciting to me when I go on a spring hike and see a pasque flower covered in bees! Anything that’s blooming early is bound to be a hit with the pollinators. Here are some ideas of early blooming plants to try in your yard.

  •    Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana)- This large shrub is very drought tolerant and provides early blooms that pollinators will love. After the blooms fade it will bear fruit that birds as well as humans love
  •     Golden currant (Ribes aureum)- Another fruit bearing shrub who’s flowers are one of the first signs of spring in Colorado. This Colorado native will require periodic irrigation
  •      Pasque flower (Anemone patens var. multifida)- As I mentioned above one of my spring time favorites. All kinds of bees and hoverflies will visit this beautiful spring bloom.
  •      Blue Flax (Linum lewisii)- This is one of the first things that blooms in my yard. It has tons of blue flowers early in the morning and is very low maintenance.
  •      Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia polyacantha)- This is fun one to have in your yard although maybe not pet or kid friendly. Very drought tolerant and likes low fertility. Many bees will love these colorful open flowers
  •     Blanketflower (Gaillardia pinnatifida)- Beautiful and easy, my kind of flower. Starts blooming early and goes all season long. It re-seeds readily so it’s easy to add more to your landscape

Chokecherry flower, Rob Routledge, Sault College,

Blue flax flower, Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service (retired),

Prickly pear flower, Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service (retired),

If you want to have a great pollinator habitat on your property, be sure to consider our early emerging pollinators!


  1. Plus bulbs, especially Iris reticulata & Chionodoxa

  2. Thank you for the useful information and extremely helpful images! Great post

  3. Don't overlook serviceberry shrub(Amelanchier) which blooms very early and is a bee magnet.