When I started my permaculture explorations, EDIBLE FOREST GARDENS were my first books. Most things I've wondered at exist, sometimes answered, in there.
It even has a nectary calendar. But the Northeast USA isn't Western Washington. I've run into a lot of problems translating EFG knowledge to here, and I don't know of a comparable manual for our region. (Would that I were worthy of the task, though I know it was life-consuming!)
Most people who I've talked to about bees out here had such a problem feeding them, I wouldn't try a hive without planting adequate nectary.
It would be neat if someone created a Google Doc, say...a spreadsheet with different tabs for each region, or better still, spreadsheets for each region with tabs for months (planting and flowering). I don't know if I could plant anything now to start a cycle of flowerings for this year, though I think I can still get a nuc. And if I find that I can get something rolling this year, I will do just that: create a public Google Doc of what I find.
But if anyone else has, or knows a resource catering to this bioregion, let me know! Thanks
(At the very least, I should build some council estates for mason bees.)
His reference tables in that book are excellent, though I don't think he included a nectary calendar specifically.
I also checked crownbees.com (based out of Woodinville, WA, though works with solitary bees nationally and globally), and spiritbee.com (the website for Jacqueline Freeman's Song of Increase book and Jacqueline is in SW Washington State). After poking around quite a bit, I did not find resources on either site to help with PNW nectary calendar.
This is a basic guide (the table below). It doesn't have as many trees on it as I would like, though it has a few. I find that bee gardens are great, but trees are better in a way. Even if you have personal problems come up (a medical issue, major financial hurdle, farm projects, etc) and don't get around to planting a bee garden, the trees will still bloom--and are drought tolerant once established.
A good friend told me that there is a rough guide in permaculture called the "80/20" rule. According to this, when you start you'll probably be getting around 80% of your food from annuals and 20% from perennials, and that the aim should be to work towards reversing that and eventually getting 80% of your food from perennials and 20% from annuals. I think with bee forage a similar goal should be held in mind. I find myself planting fewer sunflowers and less buckwheat and more bee trees. A bee tree is like a field of flowers in the sky that you don't have to water (after establishment).
On a permaculture homestead in the Pacific Northwest one is likely to have plenty of spring forage (fruit trees, hazelnuts, and locust trees). This will feed your bees from as soon as they are able to fly as things warm up (spring) into early summer. Summer forage is a little harder, especially as things dry up (literally). Summer blackberry is our biggest flow, but it's good to provide other forage for the sake of diversity. Fall is our absolutely biggest challenge--I can't stress that enough. Sorrel trees are a good bet for this time, as are (possibly) silverberries, which bloom in November. My bees are still flying in November with how warm it's been. If anyone knows of some other drought tolerant fall perennial bee forage I'm all ears.
Note that this calendar, like many, lists sunflowers as blooming in September. This is highly misleading as sunflowers are more dynamic than that. Depending on care (watering), variety, and when you plant them, sunflowers can potentially bloom over a long period of time, possibly into October (and starting in mid summer). Buckwheat is similar in this regard. The issue with both is that it's difficult to plant enough to make a huge difference without tilling. Since I practice no till my space for this is limited, and that's part of why trees and perennials are so much more suitable for me.
Lastly, I just want to say that this is one good reason to please consider planting some standard fruit trees. They live a lot longer than dwarf and semi dwarf trees, which means that not only will they be feeding people and wildlife for a hundred or more years, but they will also provide food for pollinators. I have apple trees on my property that were reputedly planted in 1926 and have probably been blooming and producing since the mid thirties. Every spring they still provide important forage for my bumblebees and local honeybees, among others, and they fill my pantry, feed my extended family, and provide feed for livestock. I often say a prayer in thanks to the people who planted them.
When you reach your lowest point, you are open to the greatest change.
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
posted 5 months ago
That is a good list James.
My bees like goldenrod and teasel in late summer. I know teasel is a non-native invasive, but I cut the seed heads off immediately after it flowers which seems to slow it down. The stems are a favorite of mason bees.
They also use snowberry from March - September. I think snowberry is my longest blooming plant.
On unusually warm days in winter, they will use Viburnum 'Pink Dawn' which blooms all winter.
Another favorite through much of spring is my Cascara tree. The flowers are really tiny but the bees go crazy for it.
Hi Dave, the Xerces stuff is good, and has 4 perennials and 2 shrubs/trees covering the late period that James says is critical. And I didn't know that Cascara trees are popular with bees! I would have thinned them less aggressively, knowing that.
Incidentally, Jacqueline Freeman has already gotten me excited about cairns for slug control. When she said in Paul's PDC that all her slug control is by snakes garrisoned in cairns, I immediately set to piling up my countless fist-sized rocks and what ho! Snakes agogo within a few months. Piling up cairns: another great job for children, who usually like rocks anyway, and should learn to like snakes.
James, I agree about standard fruit trees generally. Just a couple days ago I found a sizeable home orchard (50-60 trees) a short distance from my place planted in apple, plum, peach, maybe cherries...since bees forage within a two mile radius, it just occurred to me I can factor those trees in to my nectary! I think fireweed is a crucial summer forage...local apiaries often have pure fireweed honey because everything else feeding the bees has dried up. And for fall, I had planned to plant sourwood (sorrel) anyway, but now that I know it's a gap forage I'll be on it this year. “Most honey is made by bees. But sourwood is made by bees and angels.” -Carson Brewer. Apparently it likes to be with oaks and I'm certainly planting those, plus I can make a jelly from the flowers!
If I can still get bees this year, I'll need someplace to put my nectary plans starting from James' helpful guide, so I'll put a link in here and folks can modify what I find.
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