so, theres been a bit of discussion on this, but awhile ago, in the quickly changing modern world. i’ve been planting with bees in mind for the last few years, but only started actually keeping any a few weeks ago, & i’m quickly noticing that my bees aren’t showing much interest in a lot of my painstakingly researched introductions that are so popular with the bumbles.
at the moment we seem to be getting nectar from blackberries, thyme & marjoram, & pollen mostly from opium poppies, the striking blue/grey colour of which is what got me looking closer.
a bit of research tells me that the protein content of pollen has a massive effect on the bees’ well being, with well protein-endowed bees living longer, coping with stress better & being more resistant to a range of diseases. also, suprisingly, that whereas bumble bees are known to be selective in their gathering of pollen, concentrating on more nutritious sources, honeybees apparently just take home more or less anything with the right sized particles. presumably, before we came along & wiped out swathes of the flowering plants, this worked fine.
so what i’m asking myself now (and anyone else interested in the subject) is, where can i find the pollen protein content of plants listed? i know this information exists, as i keep coming across tantalising extracts of it, but the only place i can find detailed info is for australia (i’m in the uk).
then, which of these plants are bees actually interested in? i found a research paper citing the solanaceae (potato family) as having enormously proteinaceous pollen, but my bees are flying straight over a freely flowering potato patch with zero interest shown. likewise comfrey, a close relative of the famous vipers bugloss, which i’d thus assume to have similarly high quality pollen, & definitely chucks out nectar by the gallon, i’ve had a long row of it for years, permanently buzzing with bumblebees as long as theres light to see the flowers, but i’ve not seen a honeybee stop at it once.
& lastly, is there anything we can do to steer the bees in the direction of those plants that are best for them? i’ve heard that individual honeybees only forage on one plant species at a time, so prefer things growing in big stands. don’t know how much of a part proximity to the hive plays, or what influence flower colour has on pollen gatherers. maybe they’ll prefer flowers they’ve previously gathered nectar from?
i’ll be looking at all these things over time, but if anyone has any info/experience/leads, i’d love to hear it…