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Honey Bee

Trees for Bees

2/11/2019

Many people don’t know that honey bees are not native to North America. Honey bees were brought to North America from Europe and Russia. North America is actually a very hostile environment for honey bees. Because they are not native to North America, they also are not protected by any laws designed to protect endangered species.

Many of us think of flowering shrubs, but we don’t often think about how many trees actually flower. It is my hope with this article to make you realize just how important trees are as a food source for honey bees. Bees require protein from pollen and carbohydrates from nectar.

Several months of the year, honey bees struggle to find food, and must rely on their pollen and honey storage for survival. Most people also don’t know that honey bees can gather food from an eight-mile radius from their hive. Even if you don’t know of any hives near you, you can make a difference by planting some trees on your property. There is a very high probability that there is a bee hive within 8 miles of your home.

The following is a list of the trees that are available as food sources for honey bees throughout the year. This list was provided to us by David Hughes from Rock Bridge Trees (https://rockbridgetrees.com/):

February-March

  • Willows
  • Elms
  • Soft Maple
  • Red Maple
  • Silver Maple
  • Fragrant Honeysuckle

On days when the temperature climbs above ~60 degrees, Bees will leave the hive in search of food. Maples provide some nectar via sap, but it is only available when the night time temperature is below 32 degrees.

April

  • Redbuds – Excellent source of nectar
  • Dogwoods – OK source of nectar.
  • Oaks – provide pollen but no nectar
  • Hickories – provide pollen by no nectar

May

  • Black Locust – Nectar
  • Tulip Poplar– Nectar and Pollen
  • Ohio Buckeye– Nectar
  • Southern Catalpa– Nectar
  • Persimmon – Nectar, usually blooms in late May
  • Tree Lilac Shrubs– Nectar
  • Privet - (invasive) non-native – so I wouldn’t plant this one

June

  • Chestnut – Nectar and Pollen
  • Northern Catalpa– Nectar
  • Amur Maackii– Nectar
  • Goldenrain Tree– Nectar
  • Summersweet (Shrub) – Nectar – Bonus: Can bloom in full shade

July-August

July and August are two of the greatest months of food scarcity for honey bees, so this is where human intervention could help the most.

  • Sourwood– Nectar, in bloom from July to August
  • BeeBee– Nectar, in bloom from July to August with sporadic bloom until frost
  • Vitex– Nectar, in bloom from July to August with sporadic bloom until frost
  • Japanese Pagoda Tree– Nectar, in bloom from July to August
  • Glossy Abelia (shrub)– Nectar, blooms until frost, and can be worked into any landscape

September

  • Seven Sons Tree – Blooms in September through October and is pretty through November. It is very fragrant as well.
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