Initial results have revealed that there are differences in the lure of some popular garden plants have for honey bees and bumblebees.
Planting the right kind of flowers in gardens that provide sufficient food for the bees may help stop the declining bee population, according to scientists.
The best plants to be propagated are the Mexican giant hyssop, which was particularly good for bumblebees, while borage was best for honeybees and lilac sage was second best.
Wild marjoram and Greek Origanum were found to be most attractive to wild solitary bees.
Lavenders such as the white Lavender edelweiss and the blue lavender grossblau were also good for attracting the insects.
Biologists at the University of Sussex have been analyzing how effectively different species of flowers attract foraging insects.
In contrast there are plant species which are a favorite among gardeners but are barely ever visited by the insects and popular types of Dahlia such as the cactus Tahiti and pom pom shaped Dahlia Franz Kafka were found to be poor at providing food for foraging bees.
The researchers hope their work can help reverse the decline in many bee species by allowing gardeners to choose plants that will ensure bees have a good supply of food in their flower beds.
Loss of wild flowers and disease are thought to be the main reasons why bee numbers have dropped in recent years around the world.
Mihail Garbuzov, who is leading the project at the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects at the University of Sussex, said: “While there are a lot of lists recommending flowers to plant to promote bees in gardens, but as far as we know, few seem to be based on empirical evidence.
“We decided to examine which summer flowering garden plants are most attractive to insects. It is still early in the project, but the results we have suggest there are some significant differences in how attractive garden flowers are to insects.”
Mr. Garbuzov, who revealed his early findings in public lecture at the university, has been studying 32 different types of garden plants in an attempt to find those that are best at providing food for insects.
He recorded more than 10,000 visits by insects to plots of flowers on the outskirts of Brighton, Sussex.
In the UK, honey bee numbers have halved in the past 25 years while numbers of bumblebees have fallen by around 60 per cent since 1970 with three species going extinct and seven suffering serious declines.