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Forage for Bees in the Pacific Northwest  RSS feed

 
pollinator
Posts: 444
Location: Western Washington
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I did a brief search to see if this topic existed yet, and I didn't find any. So, I wanted to start one.

Specifically I'd love to hear what your lived experiences are with bee forage in the pacific northwest (for honey bees, bumblebees, and other bees). What works and what doesn't? I've found some neat infographics online but I'm always interested in expanding my knowledge.

I've found that lavendar, buckwheat, and sunflowers are all pretty easy to grow for forage. The latter two are also pretty flexible for me in terms of targeting their bloom to times when I feel it will be most beneficial.

For trees, I've heard that linden, golden chain, honey locust, black locust, empress trees, and silk mimosa are all good. What are your experiences with these? I'm really interested in learning about bee forage trees for my orchard. It's like planting a whole garden bed or more of flowers, but a lot less maintenance and weeding. I've heard some lindens are bad for bumblebees.

Thanks ahead of time for sharing!
 
pollinator
Posts: 423
Location: Bothell, WA - USA
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I think the #1 goal is a lot of variety for seasonal coverage, but that is a strong point in most permie systems.

In the linden family, I would lean toward the tilia cordata because the fragrance is no incredible.  It grows very well in the PNW.
 
garden master
Posts: 1008
Location: mountains of Tennessee
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Be aware that buckwheat will overpower fainter flavors. Such as peach. Learned that the hard way. I plant a lot of buckwheat after the main spring blooms. It definitely helps fill the gaps in blooms. Makes good pancakes too:)
 
James Landreth
pollinator
Posts: 444
Location: Western Washington
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What are some good plants for summer and fall bee forage? I'm looking for perennials and trees especially
 
Mike Barkley
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borage

Looks like this will grow in your area.
 
master steward
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Location: Pacific Northwest
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Borage DOES grow well. It self-seeds, too.

Other plants I see bees all over are dandelions, oregano, marjoram, lavender, and rosemary. They also seem to like the native blackberries and other cane berries.

There's some random evergreen shrub that my mom has that makes red berries and blooms for a loooong time, and bees are always all over that thing. I'll try to remember to ask her what that plant is...
 
Mike Barkley
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Washington beekeepers association

I'm not familiar enough with PNW trees & plants to make many specific suggestions. Didn't see much relevant info at the WSU website. They were focused on how to place hives for commercial pollination. Your local beekeeper association will certainly be a valuable resource.

An important thing to consider with bee foods is diversity. Where have we heard that word before? Certain varieties of bees prefer certain plants. Different varieties prefer different plants. That also varies by season & availability. Honeybees favorite color is blue. The DO love borage. (makes good soup & stew too) Another consideration is quantity. Honeybees much prefer large quantities over small. They will also wait until a particular plant type is in perfect bloom. For instance, I had an apiary that required the bees to fly directly over many huge honeysuckle plants. Those had blooms for months but the bees completely ignored it except for one day each year. Then they would hit it en masse.

Fruit trees in general are good bee food & they supply other things bees need like resins, etc. Pungent herbs are also a good choice. Bee balm is a beautiful perennial (or at least self seeding) bee food plant but I believe it requires warmer weather than the PNW. I've found the local "pollinator & bee" flower mixes from garden centers to be good. Clover. Can't go wrong with clover. I use red & white clovers. Mostly as a cover crop but the bees are frequently on it too. Stacked functions!

 
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Borage, Bee Balm, all sorts of herbs such as Mint, Rosemary, Dill, Oregano. Meadowfoam is unique to the PNW and makes a wonderful honey, if you could get some good seeds of that. As for trees, Maples are a good late winter forage around here, and I imagine would be there too. Cherry trees, Linden, Black Locust. Gallberry shrubs are tolerant of very wet soil I believe, which would be good in such a rainy area.
 
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I am starting my  beekeeping this year but i have observed what localy in my neighborhood the bees are working.  Filberts for pollen when its a warmer  late winter for one. This year however was hard in the puget sound area for these ladies.  Various willows, the native alders, skunk cabbage and then  the season with our maples begin. The cherry  apple and peaches will be worked well too.  I have been looking at  trees   and variety of species to help broaden the choices  for the bees to work on.  This is a ongoing study and  I am hopefull my  start will result in happy hives and   increase my hives from  2 to ten  assuming I can make proper splits  maybe more  ...
 
pollinator
Posts: 865
Location: Victoria BC
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Comfrey always seems to be a real bee-magnet for me.

I stick with th sterile Bocking cultivars so that I have some control over where it goes...
 
Posts: 4
Location: Western Oregon, Zone 8b
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In my garden I grow a ton of cut flowers and bouquet fillers/foliage, besides herbs and veggies. Some of the pollinator favorites off the top of my head:

Cerinthe (bumblebees and hummingbirds got nuts for these!), bupleurum (Bupleurum rotundifolium), cosmos, sweet alyssum, rudbeckia, zinnias, lupine, foxglove, roses, hollyhocks (hummingbirds love these!), crocus, daffodils, tulips, gladiolas, squash blossoms, overwintered brassicas left to bolt, lettuces left to bolt, and herbs allowed to flower/bolt.
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Early summer garden. The bluish-green plants on the left are Cerinthe. Beyond that are Bupleurum blooming (yellow flowers). Sweet peas growing along the fence.
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Rudbeckias, cosmos, and sweet peas. Also a chicken, but she's hiding in the jungle.
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Bumblebee sleeping on a zinnia.
 
Posts: 6
Location: Western WA
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I've been following Paul Stamets's research with WSU on fungi and bees.
They have a Citizen Science Project to build bee feeders with Mycelium extracts of polypore mushrooms (Reishi and Amadou) + 50/50 sugar water as it seems to help bees fight viruses and boost their immune systems.

I'm about to build one of these feeders for myself and see if I can help out some local bees while they visit my Bing cherry blossoms.

Here are some resources: https://fungi.com/blogs/articles/a-call-to-citizen-scientists-we-need-you-to-help-save-the-bees
Video - Action on the Bee Crisis, Paul Stamets:  


Enjoy!
 
James Landreth
pollinator
Posts: 444
Location: Western Washington
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Let me know how this goes. It sounds interesting. I think the sugar water is a little suspicious as it usually isn't good for bees, but maybe in this context it's ok
 
Richard Mak
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Location: Western WA
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Sure James, I'll post an update if I see potential in this.

Also, correction on my previous post, I meant to say 1% Sugar to Water solution, not 50/50 sugar water.
 
Posts: 38
Location: Oregon Coast and Cascade Range, valley side, ~44 N
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I have noticed two of the first plants to flower here and also be hit up by the bumblebees despite daytime highs staying below 60F is red flowering currant and whichever Lamium it is outside - I think it's red dead nettle but not positive.  
 
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James Landreth,

What part of Western Washington are you in? Depending on your exact location, elevation and soil type, including pH, will determine the best choices. As those will dictate exactly what species of trees and plants in combination, that will be needed to provide year round bee forage. Also terrain and lighting can be useful information, as even part shade or shaded areas can sometimes get enough light to produce some types of bee forage. If you wanna keep it permaculture, those factors are essential to low or no maintenance production of your bee forage crops. This will also allow for the best selection of multi use crops, that allow for additional usage and or potential revenue streams. Lindens are known to provide the most bee forage per acer amongst tree species considering your general area, but thats only one part of the season. In addition, the benefit of Lindens are the under hung bloom structures that alow bee foraging to happen during and after rain events, which can be important in areas that rain during the Linden bloom cycle. Which if I recall accurately, Western Washington will still be getting frequent precipitation during the Linden bloom in spring.  
 
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