With Spring just around the corner in the Northern hemisphere and temperatures rising well above 55° F, bees are starting to get out of their hives in search of fresh nectar and pollen. While most of the fruit trees haven’t blossomed yet (or about to), there are some early spring flowers that serve as the first bee forage.
Honey bees need both pollen and nectar to begin to raise brood and increase the colony population after the winter.
In northeast Pennsylvania, two early sources of pollen for the honey bee are the red maple and the pussy willow. As we move further into Spring, another early source of pollen and nectar for bees is the dandelion!
Despite the fact that dandelions are commonly perceived as a weed by the gardeners, it is an important source of nectar and pollen not only for bees but also for butterflies, moths and other pollinators. It is widely distributed and is blossoming throughout the whole active season for the bees – from early spring to autumn.
One small way that people can help is to not kill the dandelions, and not mow til after they have gone to seed.
The Maple tree is native to North America but it is commonly distributed in Europe as well, mainly as a park tree. It blossoms before most of the other trees. Its abundant flowers are in dense clusters and offer very sweet nectar, that the bees simply can’t resist.
A male pussy willow is one of the best trees for the bee yard because it will bloom especially early in the year. Beekeepers often plant them close to the apiary to help the bees through the pollen-scarce months of March and April when little else is in flower.
The catkins appear very early in the year before the leaves. The furry stage is actually the bud stage of the flower. Later, the fur disappears and is replaced by either male or female flowers, depending on which type of plant you have. Pussy willows are dioecious, meaning there are both male and female trees. Although only the male flowers produce pollen, both sexes produce nectar.
White Clover, also known as Trifolium repens, turns your lawn green and feeds our honey bees too! White clover has a good pollen and nectar count and is a contributor to those lovely multi-floral honeys we love. A great way to maximise gardens for bee food diversity. The honey bees love it! If there's a patch of clover, leave it ‘bee’.'
source: Pam Lavelle &