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Your bees favorite flowers?


#1

Hello!

I am new to beekeeping, but have been engulfed in professional horticulture for a few decades.

I am currently designing a bee garden, close to the hive, with 100% intent of providing nectar.

My question is, what do you find to be(e) the favorite flower of your bees? And to follow up on that, do you find certain flowers provide certain characteristics/flavors to the honey?

Thanks!


#2

The best thing for bee health is a wide variety of flowers, covering as many seasons as possible. There is no one favorite, the favorite will be whatever is providing the nectar or pollen they need at that moment. Just to give you some ideas:
Clover (red or white), asters, sunflowers, flowering herbs such as lavender, rosemary, basil (especially perennial basil, but that won’t do well in your climate) and berries, such as raspberry, strawberry and blackberry. The USDA has a map with climates and bee forage sources on it, which Mr Google could find for you. That should also give you some ideas of what to plant for (almost) year-round food for your bees. This is one list for Maryland, but they cover the rest of the US with their maps too:

Here is some natural forage info for Vermont:
https://honeybeenet.gsfc.nasa.gov/Honeybees/ForageRegion.php?StReg=VT_13

Certain flowers really do affect honey flavor. My favorite is lavender flower honey - not the stuff we get in the US, but from hives which are in the middle of acres of lavender flowers in France. Just heaven, and doesn’t taste anything like lavender smells. :wink: Orange blossom honey is also lovely. Clover honey is very mild and somewhat nondescript to my palate. Goldenrod honey smells of old sport shoes, but many people like it. So many scents and flavors, you would need a big book to cover them all, and then it is all subjective anyway. :blush:


#3

I’m more into growing food. One fruit flower the bees absolutely love is dragonfruit. They’re currently loving the clover that’s in my lawns.

I don’t think you’ll be able to grow enough on a small scale to make an impact on the flavor of your honey. If you use 4k’s as an example of how far bees travel to collect nectar, that’s an area of around 50 sq.kms.

It’s nice to grow a garden with your bees in mind, however also consider native species.

Leptospermum plants that produce Manuka type honey is becoming popular to plant with bees in mind.


#4

A couple of plants come to mind mainly because they are in flower here currently.
Agave, although it’s taken years to flower, it’s spire has grown over 3 meters and has continually flowered for months. I’m not sure what the bees are getting out the f it but they are all over it all day.
Citrus, a lovely smelling short lived mass produced flower bees are all over these too. I rarely water them yet always provide enough fruit for us, our friends and acquaintances and the 28’s. Unfortunately the local rainbow lorikeet population have grown in numbers and ruining many flowers and fruit here, horrible migrants… I need a ging…:rage:
Lastly, and of the native plants, it’s all yellows and blues. Go Eagles. :wink:


#5

@jeffH Dragon Fruit typically rely on moths for pollination I thought, hence the reason they flower in the evening. When do you see the bees making a line for the flower, just before or after it opens?

Cheers

Alan


#6

Callistemon and passionfruit are preferentially popular in my garden or it would seem so.

Kennedia Nigracan too, but that’s possibly because little else is in flower at that time.


#7

Red Tip Photinia is an early blooming bush that the bees like. Asian basil is easy to grow from seed and grows all season till frost. Bees and other foragers work it. You would need a lot of it to benefit the bees but if you have the space it is option. Borage and Pride of Madeira are easy to grow . You would get the best results growing trees the bees like.


#8

Hi Alan, this is my dragon fruit flowers with bees video.


Sometimes they’ll start to open up on sunset, then by about 8.00pm, they are fully open. They generally stay open till about 8am the next morning. If the bees find them before they close up, they have a good time in them. You’ll often find the bees inside the flowers after they have closed up. They are not trapped in there, they just find their way in & out. I think that pollen is the main attraction for the bees.

#9

Thanks @JeffH. That’s interesting and good to know! I’ve got 6 of the dragon fruit cactus growing but they aren’t at the point of flowering yet. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.


#10

It was only in the last couple of days I gave mine a generous amount of cow manure, some dolomite as well as some sulfate of potash. Then a generous covering of sugar cane mulch in readiness, hopefully for a bumper crop this season.

Where my bees are, the cows have been very generous, not to mention depositing the brown treasure in convenient spots so as to avoid much walking. We filled 12x10 liter & 3x20 liter buckets within a short stroll from my truck yesterday.


#11

you absolutely MUST plant perennial basil plants. It is said to be one of THE most attractive plants for bees- the plants flower all year round, and there is always bees on them- all day long. They can’t get enough. I purchased 8 of them from an estate auction and when I went to collect them they had put them outside for a day in a courtyard- already bees had found them and they were covered in them buzzing excitedly. Today in my garden there are many bees all over them (and other isects)- now I have about 50 plants having taken many, many cuttings which are super easy: just place cutting in a glass of water on a windowsill and they have roots within 10 days. Only 1 in ten cuttings fails. Twice a year or so you can cut them back quite severely as they get very leggy otherwise and they soon spring back with more flowers than ever. They are hard to kill.

Not only that- you can eat the leaves- they are great in salads, as a garnish on pasta, you can add them to pesto along with sweet basil for a bit more spiciness. I eat them almost every day. They have leaves all year round and do not die in winter. There seems to be many varieties: I think mine is close to greek basil. It flowers all the time but is infertile so never produces seed. So I guess you have to get cuttings from somewhere. This spring I will be planting Indian Tulsi: holy basil. Supposedly it cures whatever ails you and has been used as medicine for millenia.


#12

Probably won’t survive the Vermont winter. Neither would passion fruit vines. They have some serious freezing weather up there. :thinking:


#13

Oh, what’s a ging skegs?

Fly, Eagles, Fly :eagle:


#14

It is a sling shot…


#15

oh- that’s a shame… Green House? They grow well in pots.


#16

That should work, but the OP was looking to plant a “bee garden” rather than build a greenhouse. :blush:


#17

yeah well- you know how these things go. You start with one hive- and then like me you have 15. Just caught another swarm this afternoon. You plant a bee garden and then you build the Crystal Palace:


#18

Thanks to all for sharing wisdom!

I keep hearing Basil, Clover, and Lavender to those I’ve been chatting with here in Vermont.

I am very envious of those posting amazing plants we cannot grow here in VT!


#19

Even in your cold weather you still might be able to plant a snow gum…

E. pauciflora regenerates from seed, by epicormic shoots below the bark, and from lignotubers. It is the most cold-tolerant species of eucalyptus, with E. pauciflora subsp. niphophila surviving temperatures down to −23 °C (−9 °F) and year-round frosts. It has been introduced to Norway.


#20

I think it’s Lilacs flower.