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Northern Nectar Sources for Honeybees: Wikis


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A honey bee collecting nectar from an apple flower.

The nectar source in a given area depends on the type of vegetation present and the length of their bloom period. What type of vegetation will grow in an area depends on soil texture, soil pH, soil drainage, daily maximum and minimum temperatures, precipitation, extreme minimum winter temperature, and growing degree days. The plants listed below are plants that would grow in USDA Hardiness zone 5. A good predictor for when a plant will bloom and produce nectar is a calculation of the growing degree days. Hopkins' Bioclimatic Law states that in North America east of the Rockies, a 130 m (400-foot) increase in elevation, a 4° change in latitude north (444.48 km), or a 10° change in longitude east (two thirdth of a time zone) will cause any given biological event to occur four days later in the spring or four days earlier in the fall. In botany, the term phenology refers to the timing of flower emergence, sequence of bloom, fruiting, and leaf drop in autumn.

The classification in major or minor nectar source is very dependent on the agricultural use of the land. Agricultural crops like canola and alfalfa may be a major or minor source depending on local plantings. Honeydew sources are not included in this listing.

Contents

Spring

Spring - Trees and shrubs

Common name Latin name Blooming months Monofloral honey Availability Source for honey bees
Maple Acer Feb - Apr no feral major but temperature usually too cold
Red Maple Acer rubrum Feb - Apr no feral major but temperature usually too cold for bees to fly
Shadbush Amelanchier arborea Apr - May no feral minor
Red Chokeberry Aronia arbutifolia, Photinia pyrifolia May - Jun no feral minor
Black Chokeberry Aronia melanocarpa May - Jun no feral minor
Ohio Buckeye Aesculus glabra Apr - May no feral minor
Common Hackberry Celtis occidentalis Apr - May no feral minor
Hawthorn Crataegus Apr - May no feral minor - 50 - 100 pounds/acre
Honey Locust Gleditsia triancanthos May - Jun no feral minor
American Holly Ilex opaca Apr - Jun no feral minor, important in southeastern US
Tulip-tree Liriodendron tulipifera May - Jun yes feral major in southern Appalachians and piedmont
Apple Malus domestica Apr - May no cultivated minor
Crab Apple Malus sylvestris Mar - Jun no ornamental minor
Cherry Prunus cerasus Apr - May no feral, cultivated minor
Pear Pyrus communis Apr - May no cultivated minor
Black Cherry Prunus serotina Apr - May no feral, cultivated minor
Plum Prunus Apr - May no feral, cultivated minor
Common Buckthorn Rhamnus cathartica May - Jun no feral minor
Black Locust Robinia pseudoacacia May - Jun yes feral major - 800 - 1200 pounds/acre
Raspberry Rubus May - Jun yes feral, cultivated major in some areas
Blackberry Rubus May - Jun yes feral, cultivated major in some areas
Willow Salix Feb - Apr no feral, ornamental major but temperature usually too cold for bees to fly. 100 - 150 pounds honey per acre; 1,500 pounds pollen
Pussy Willow Salix discolor Mar - Apr no feral, ornamental major but temperature usually too cold for bees to fly
American Elm Ulmus americana Feb - Apr no feral minor
Blueberry Vaccinium corymbosum May - Jun no cultivated minor

Spring - Flowers and annual crop plants

Common name Latin name Blooming months Monofloral honey Availability Source for honey bees
Chives Allium schoenoprasum May - Sep no cultivated minor
Asparagus Asparagus officinalis May - Jun no cultivated minor
Milk Vetch Astragalus spp. May - Jun no feral minor
Mustard Brassica arvenisi (L.) Apr - May no? cultivated minor?
Oilseed Rape (Canola) Brassica napus L., Brassica rapa May - Jun yes cultivated major
Mountain Bluet Centaurea Montana (Knapweed) May no?? feral major
Leopardsbane Doronicum cordatum Apr - May no feral minor
Henbit Deadnettle Lamium sp Mar - May no feral minor but valuable due to earliness/frost hardiness
White Sweet Clover Melilotus alba May - Aug yes feral, cultivated major
Yellow Sweet Clover Melilotus officinalis May - Aug yes feral, cultivated major
Phacelia, Tansy Phacelia tanacetifolia Western US - One of the best spring forage sources for honeybees. Blooms 45–60 days and continuously produces nectar throughout the day. Can be seeded several times per year. Prefers three feet of topsoil. 180 - 1,500 pounds honey per acre, depending on soil quality and depth; 300-1000 pounds of pollen.[1]
Lungwort Pulmonaria spp. May no feral minor
Woundwort Stachys byzantina May no feral minor
Chickweed Stellaria Media Apr - Jul no feral minor
Dandelion Taraxicum officinale Apr - May no? feral major
Speedwell Veronica spicata June no feral minor
Blackhaw Viburnum prunifolium May - Jun no feral minor

Source: Spring flowers Master beekeeper program, Cornell University Dyce Laboratory (web accessed Nov 2006)

Summer

Summer - Trees and shrubs

Common name Latin name Blooming months Monofloral honey Availability Source for honey bees
Devils-walkingstick Aralia spinosa Jul - Aug no feral minor
Catalpa Catalpa speciosa Jun - Jul no feral, ornamental minor
Sumac Rhus glabra Jun - Jul ?? feral major
Bee bee tree Tetradium July - Sept ornamental major
Basswood Tilia americana, Tilia cordata June - July yes feral, ornamental Produces a high volume of honey on a cycle of every five to eight years, with lower volume of nectar other years. major 800 - 1,100 pounds honey
See also: Honeydew source

Summer - Flowers and annual crop plants

Common name Latin name Blooming months Monofloral honey Availability Source for honeybees
Anise hyssop Agstache foeniculum Jul-Frost no feral minor
Chives Allium schoenoprasum May - Sep no feral, cultivated minor
Garlic chives Allium tuberosa Aug - Sep no cultivated minor
Leadwort Amorpha fruticosa Jun - Jul no feral minor
Milkweed Asclepias spp. 55 species Jul - Aug feral All species are great for honeybees. Nectar is so abundant that it is possible to shake the blossom and actually see the nectar fall. Asclepias syriaca has the highest honey yield. major 120 - 250 pounds honey, depending on soil and if good fertilization
Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa Jul - Aug no feral minor
Aster Asteraceae spp. Aug - Sep no feral, ornamental can be major
Borage Borago officinalis Jun - Frost no feral, ornamental minor, but can be major on cultivated area 200 pounds honey per acre; 60-160 pounds pollen
Marigold Calendula officinalis Jun - Sep no ornamental minor
Thistle Centaurea spp. Jul - Sep no feral minor
Creeping thistle Cirsium arvense Jul - Sep feral (invasive in North America)
Clethra Summersweet Clethra alnifolia Jul - Aug no feral minor
Cucumber Cucumis spp. no cultivated minor
Melon Cucumis melo Jun-Frost no cultivated minor
Pumpkin Cucurbita pepo Jun-Frost no cultivated minor
Wild Carrot Daucus carota Aug - Sep no feral minor
Blue thistle, Viper's bugloss Blue weed Echium vulgare Echium vulgare is most widely known, though there are about 60 additional species. Jun - Aug no feral In California, spring blooming plant with repeat bloom. Fall bloom provides nectar for bees for overwintering. The most unusual feature of Echium vulgare is the protection of the nectar inside the flower from vaporization (when it’s hot) or flushing away (when it rains). It is why almost for 2 months this plant is a stable source of nectar for bees. Additionally this plant produces nectar throughout the day unlike most plants which produce nectar for a short period of time. If the bees have a good access to Echium they can collect between 12-20 lbs of nectar a day. The concentration of sugars in the nectar vary 22.6-48.3% depending on the quality of the soil, and not on the amount of rain. The honey is light amber in color and ver y fragrant with a pleasant taste, and does not crystallize for 9–15 months.[2] major 300 - 1,000 pounds honey/acre depending on soil. 500-2000 lbs of dark blue pollen.
Globe Thistle Echinops ritro August feral major
Fireweed Epilobium angustifolium Jun - Sep yes feral major
Joe-Pye weed Eutrochium spp. Aug - Sep no feral minor
Buckwheat Fagopyrum esculentum Jul - Aug can be cultivated minor
Blue vine Gonolobus laevis no feral minor
Soybean Glycine soja Jul - Oct cultivated major
Sunflower Helianthus annuus Jun - Sep can be feral, cultivated minor 30 - 100 pounds/acre
Basil Koellia cultivated no minor
Lavender Lavandula angustifolia Jun - Sep can be cultivated minor
Birdsfoot trefoil Lotus corniculatus Jun - Aug no feral minor
Alfalfa Medicago sativa July - Aug as clover honey feral, cultivated major
Clover Melilotus spp. and Trifolium spp. May - Aug as clover honey feral, cultivated major - up to 500 pounds per acre in a good year [3]
White Sweet Clover Melilotus alba as clover honey feral, cultivated major
Yellow Sweet Clover Melilotus officinalis as clover honey feral, cultivated major
Melissa, Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis Western USA - Prolonged bloom of 45 – 50 days generally in summer, but with repeat blooming in California. Delicate honey with very light, pinkish color. 150 - 250 pounds honey per acre; 50-120 pounds pollen
Catnip Nepeta mussinii Jun - Sep no feral, ornamental minor
Oregano Origanum vulgare Jun - Sep no cultivated? minor
Poppy Papaver somniferum minor - 20 - 30 pounds /acre
Russian Sage Perovskia atriplicifolia Jul - Sep can be ornamental minor
Smartweed Polygonum spp. Aug - Sep feral major
Selfheal Prunella vulgaris Jul - Aug no feral minor
Mountain Mint Pycnanthemum flexuosum Aug-Frost no feral minor
Azalea Rhododendron spp. Jun - Aug no ornamental minor
Scrophularia Scrophularia spp. July no feral minor
Chick weed Stellaria media Apr - Jul no feral minor
Korean euodia Tetradium daniellii Aug - Sep no feral minor
Germander, Thyme Teucrium canadense Jul - Aug no feral minor
Thyme Thymus pulegioides; Thymus serpyllum Jun - Jul no feral, cultivated minor - 50 - 150 pounds honey/acre
Red-Flowering Thyme Thymus praecox Jun - Jul feral? major
Alsike Clover Trifolium hybridum as clover honey feral, cultivated major
Crimson clover Trifolium incarnatum as clover honey feral, cultivated major
Red Clover Trifolium pratense Jun - Jul as clover honey feral, cultivated major
White Clover Trifolium repens Jun - Jul as clover honey feral, cultivated major
Blue Vervain Verbena hastata L. Jul - Aug no ornamental? minor
Tall Ironweed Vernonia altissima Aug - Sep no feral minor
Tufted Vetch Vicia cracca Jul - Aug no feral minor
Common Vetch Vicia sativa Jul - Aug no feral minor

Source: Summer flowers Master beekeeper program, Cornell University Dyce Laboratory (web accessed Nov 2006)

Fall

A honey bee on Sweet autumn clematis in September.
Honey bee on Sedum autumn joy (Hylotelephium telephium)

Fall - Trees and shrubs

Common name Latin name Blooming months Monofloral honey Availability Source for honey bees
Bee bee tree Tetradium July - Sept ornamental major

Fall - Flowers and annual crop plants

Common name Latin name Blooming months Monofloral honey Availability Source for honey bees
Anise hyssop Agstache foeniculum Jul-Frost feral minor
Aster Aster spp. Sep-Frost feral, ornamental major
Borage Borago officinalis Jun - Frost minor
Sweet Autumn Clematis Clematis terniflora Sep ornamental minor
Melons Cucumis melo Jun-Frost cultivated minor
Pumpkin Cucurbita pepto Jun-Frost cultivated minor
Heather Erica vulgaris, though many varieties 100 - 200 pounds honey
Soybean Glycine soja Jul - Oct cultivated minor
Appalachian Mountain Mint Pycnanthemum flexuosum Aug-Frost minor
Goldenrod Solidago spp. Sep - Oct can be feral major
Tall Ironweed Vernonia altissima, Vernonia gigantea Aug - Oct feral minor

Source: Fall flowers Master beekeeper program, Cornell University Dyce Laboratory (web accessed Nov 2006)

Two Bees on a Creeping Thistle Cirsium arvense

See also

References

  1. ^ Top Five" Plants for Honeybees (accessed Sep 2009)
  2. ^ Top Five" Plants for Honeybees
  3. ^ Pellett, Frank Chapman 'American Honey Plants' 297 pages American Bee Journal, Hamilton, Illinois (1920)







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