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planting for honey?  RSS feed

 
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Bumping an old thread here.
There is a lady nearby in Puget Sound (in Bremerton) who said this

Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) is in full white blossom no later than the first week of February.



In this climate, that could become the wake up call for the bees. Food in February !
Could be a good harvest if they got started that early.

http://jlhudsonseeds.net/ has the seeds, and has this to say about the plant:

—Lonicera fragrantissima. (250) LONI-28. Packet: $2.50
Photos and info: http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/plant-finder/plant-details/kc/d970/lonicera-fragrantissima.aspx
http://www.duke.edu/~cwcook/trees/lofr.html
http://www.paghat.com/winterhoneysuckle.html
'SWEET BREATH OF SPRING', 'WINTER HONEYSUCKLE', 'YU XIANG REN DONG'.
Fragrant creamy-white 1/2" flowers (in winter in mild climates), followed by red berries.
Shrub to 8 feet, with 3" leaves. China. Zone 4 or 5. Germinates in 4 weeks and up.



 
Posts: 1987
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Sounds interesting, although I always wonder how effective small scale plantings can possibly be for bees. It would be nice to have an idea what land area/number of plants etc... would be useful to make a difference.

What I'd like to do in my area is plug some seasonal gaps. We get a fairly early flow from the oil seed rape, then a mix of wild flowers, followed by the huge flow from the lime trees (Linden). I think from what I observed this year that black locust fitted nicely between the rape and the lime, but I need more than the solitary tree we have to make an impact. I guess you would need to make a chart of nectar flow timings for each region and see what is missing.
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1987
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Should have read back to page 1 before commenting - Tel is talking about fairly large scale plantings, I was envisaging a few honeysuckles in a backyard!

I'm getting a feel for when my flows are here, but it will take a few more years before I get it all worked out.

Highlights in my foraging season, in approximate order of flow, seem to be:

Oil Seed Rape
Locust - I have one black locust tree, I'd happily plant more
Lime Trees (lucky to have more of these than I can possibly hope to need - lovely honey too while the flow is on)

Other things are around, but I don't have a handle yet on their impact - blackberries, willow (early pollen and nectar?), yew and various wild flowers. Around here the agriculture is largely mono-culture crops and fairly heavily sprayed. I'm pretty dependent on the established trees for consistent flow year on year.

We have our own pasture and I would love to get more flowering plants established in it - presently it is grass, thistles and nettles... not a clover to be found in over 6 acres, no dandelions etc... it has previously been overgrazed so isn't in good shape.
 
pollinator
Posts: 4339
Location: Anjou ,France
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Have you any Ivy Micheal ?
Its very important late in the season particularly if the bees have not had a good summer or are a late swarm .
Also willow in the spring is one of the first for the bees round where I am .
The girls today are showing off a nice line in yellow and orange leg warmers
I suspect Bramble and Lime tree
 
gardener
Posts: 787
Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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A couple of plants I noticed were very popular with the bees in the beginning of the season were spiderwort (Tradescantia) and purple dead nettle (lamium purpureum)
I don't have my own bees, but plan on keeping these plants around to attract them early on in spring.






 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1987
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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actually yes - we do have plenty of Ivy. I guess that is another one to look forward to later in the year.
 
Posts: 3366
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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What about mulberry or persimmon? The bees just love them here, and they bloom before the clover comes in here.
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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One of the reasons that I posted about Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) is that the person I quoted was living in the same USDA zone (8), and the same bioregion as Tel Jetson (the original poster). Honeysuckles are vines, so could easily be planted along fence lines, or to climb trees. A $2.50 packet from JLHudsons would be sufficient to plant (at 4 foot spacings) a perimeter fence to one full acre. By being in full bloom by the first week of February, it offers a very early season opportunity to get the bees off of their asses, and back to work (LOL).

Another advantage I have read about, is that many birds prefer these honeysuckle berries to cherries. If this argument holds true, this would lead to a greater cherry harvest, without the need for bird netting (expensive, and time consuming).

They are hardy to zones 4-5, and would certainly blossom later, but still early for whatever zone.
It sounds to me like a plant worthy of serious consideration for any beekeeper (or cherry grower).

 
pollinator
Posts: 3738
Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
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John Polk wrote:
Another advantage I have read about, is that many birds prefer these honeysuckle berries to cherries. If this argument holds true, this would lead to a greater cherry harvest, without the need for bird netting (expensive, and time consuming).



This does not seem to be the case for me. The birds are going after both.
 
steward
Posts: 3422
Location: woodland, washington
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really early flowers are an interesting case. around here, warm spells long enough for the bees to fly in February aren't exactly uncommon, but it probably isn't wise to count on them. when they do occur, the bees seem to find plenty of forage. I'm quite certain that providing more would be helpful, though maybe only marginally so.

this year, we had a couple of warm weeks in February that I would guess were enough to start them raising brood. there was a lot of pollen coming in. then it got cold again. real cold. right through to the end of March. having committed to raising brood, they were now on the hook to keep them warm through weather cold enough that they couldn't forage. many didn't make it. of my hives, those that did the best were at higher elevations. they didn't get that warm weather in February, so they didn't start raising brood. would more forage available in February have made the situation more promising? I'm not sure. their population is relatively low at that time, so they might not have the workforce available to take advantage of any extra treats.

from the middle of July on through maybe October, though, additional forage plants would be very helpful. things are generally pretty dry here around then, which makes nectar hard to come by.
 
master steward
Posts: 25602
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Jack sent me this video today. It is an oak tree being a source of sugar in the fall for bees.

 
Posts: 142
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Thanks for posting my video Paul. Here are a few things I have learned about bees in my first year as a keeper.

1. Sun flowers, plant them and plant more. I planted a few thousand black oil sunflowers in my food forest and they act like a support species, lots of bio mass and roots that die when the plants do. Seed source, I stole a few feeder scoops out of my wifes bird food bag.

2. Yes buckwheat! I sow it in annual beds in between crops. It is in seed in six weeks flat, it is good for the bees in 3 weeks and stays used heavy until 5 weeks, then you might as well kill it. I also found my bees all over it from about an hour after sun up until about noon, after that not a bee near it except to drink water from the hose bibs. So DO NOT think a plant is not used, the timing is everything, some flowers they only hit when the flow is on (a few weeks even if the flowers are on longer) and sometimes the flow is on only at times of the day.

3. Mimosa Tree - good fixer of N, pollards great and the bees envelop it.

4. White Crepe Myrtle - Don't ask me why but they don't really care for reds/pinks they envelop the white all season long though, mostly in early morning. I always thought this was just an ornamental and bene attractor but then I learned this year that it controls blood sugar and can help treat diabetes, http://omegaprepping.com/herbal/banaba_crepe-myrtle/

5. Butternut Squash - You can plant 50 in about 10 minutes in your forest edges south facing is best. I had so many bees on the flowers this year that it was hard to inspect the little squash for fear of being stung.

6. Peas - they love peas, winter, cow it doesn't matter.

7. Basil - let it go to seed, they swarm the flowers, it is hardy and grows everywhere, I collect a about a half gallon of seed each year and just throw half out in winter and the other half in spring.

8. Parsley - in year two it teams with bees and other pollinators when the flower stalk goes up. In the words of Bill Mollison, "once you get parsley thick, you will always have it".

9. Black Locust - a great support tree, easily pollarded/coppiced for fire wood and bees go berserk on it when in flower.

10. There is a tree I never found in the US but they call it "Leather Wood" in Auz. Mollison said it is the highest yielding nectar source out there.

Also remember everyone focuses on nectar but bees only make honey with that, they also need "bee bread" and pollen. This is the protein side of things. In fall when you see your bees coming in coated in pollen it is a great sign. They actually love believe it or not both corn and sorghum pollen. I grow sorghum in my food forest edges. I cut it three times a year in our long summer it comes back twice. I put the seed heads in buckets for my ducks and geese and feed them a few a day or so. The bees are all over the heads when it is in pollen.
 
Posts: 64
Location: Western Montana
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Knapweed, sweet clover, alfalfa, dandelion, in that order is the best for bees in Montana.
 
Posts: 277
Location: Nauvoo, AL
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I had a few linden trees at my old house and you could literally hear the buzzing from inside while the trees were blooming. Every single flower in the tree would seem to have a bee in it any time you looked. Not sure of the quality of honey. But you can be sure the bees love it.
 
tel jetson
steward
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Location: woodland, washington
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Jay Grace wrote:I had a few linden trees at my old house and you could literally hear the buzzing from inside while the trees were blooming. Every single flower in the tree would seem to have a bee in it any time you looked. Not sure of the quality of honey. But you can be sure the bees love it.



it's very popular honey. fetches a premium price.
 
gardener
Posts: 1886
Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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I'd like to add "rocky mountain bee plant" "Cleome serrulata" to the bee forage list. It's native to most of the USA, used by ana'azazi as a black pigment on pottery, AND it's an edible green. Grows 5 feet high and across, an annual, covered in mauve blossoms, and he bees love it. Here's al ink to the usda fact sheet: http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=CLSE. It has pictures of a single flower head, the whole plant is covered in them! I've added a picture of some volunteers in an untended part of my garden. They germinated there in the loose soil and have received no direct water.
Anyway, they are great mixed in with tall purple amaranth! Here is the thing about getting them started. The seeds need to spend the winter on the ground, it's not just a cold treatment that's needed, it needs the rising and falling of temperature. But once you get them they re seed.

I've also noticed that honey bees love arugula gone to flower, great if you wanted to save seed, or if, like me, you just let things reseed in place. Someone mentioned parsley, the year it flowers, and all the predatory wasps will join in on that. All the plants in that family are great for bees (the family is named for bees).

I don't know what quality of honey comes from these, but the bees seek them out in great number.

Lastly, when the chinese elms "bloom" the bees seem to be all over them. The "flowers" are some black bracts, with some tiny white ?anthers? I have no idea, but it's good for the bees at a time when there is not much else.

Thekla
bee-plant.jpg
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I have been reading about witch hazel as a bee plant. What I have found is that there are several types of witch hazel, the natives, common (eastern) witch hazel that blooms in the late fall to winter, the vernal (ozark) witch hazel that blooms in early spring, and a Chinese and a Japanese witch hazel and a hybrid of the Asian ones. The Asian varieties are claimed to be more colorful with more blossoms. I can't seem to find any information on how these compare for actual nectar production. It seems that many time hybridized plants that are showier have less nectar. Does anyone know of a source of information or anecdotal information on the bees attraction to the different types of witch hazel?
 
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Phacelia tanacetifolia and caryopteris are both top tier bee plants. They both have beautiful purple/blue pollen that stands out from the normal yellows and oranges you often see in your pollen frames. Hysopus officinalis, salvia nemorosa, creeping thyme, basil, chives the purple onion and white garlic variety, and gaillardia all make my list of excellent honey bee plants that I have grown.
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Michael Cox
Posts: 1987
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I had a quick skim over the thread above.

I have been reading about "sainfoin" - a leguminous hay crop that produces copious nectar over and extended season.  I have heard anecdotes of beekeepers who couldn't work out why their bees were packing away a super each week of honey, week after week. Then they discovered a farmer had established a few acres of this just down the road. As a leguminous, perennial, nitrogen fixer this is an ideal crop. The name literally means "healthy hay" and does not cause the issues with bloating that other legumes like clover can.

https://honeybeesuite.com/sainfoin-as-a-honey-bee-forage-plant/



https://www.daylesford.com/farm-field-volume-3-celebrating-sainfoin/

 
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