Dining on Nectar

A beehive is not for everyone; but, if you are putting plants or trees in your yard or garden, you might as well plant bee food. Bee hives are dying at an astounding rate. Workers disappear and leave the queen and baby bees stranded when the mysterious “colony collapse disorder” strikes. This disorder combined with ants, moths, parasites and pesticides resulted in one third of our bees dying from 2016 to 2017.

The beautiful Grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) pictured above is a small bulb available everywhere; it doesn’t require a big hole like a daffodil–and bees love it. Of course the bulb, all bulbs really, have to go in the ground in the fall and while the work required is not onerous, it’s still work. Gardening is work. But bulbs link are fun to me since they pay off long after they are planted. Other bulbs bees love include:

Purple flowering alliums (Allium spp.)
Crocus (Crocus x luteus)
Dahlias, Bishop (Dahlia)
Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)
Siberian squill (Scilla sibirica)

The purple flowering onions did not come up for me last summer; but I have great hopes this year for Dahlias that I am told will amaze me throughout the July and August. These ‘summer’ bulbs follow the early bloomers– crocus, aconite and squill. The bees need as many early flowers as possible. As winter breaks, they need pollen for the new baby bees. link

Nurseries, grocery stores and hardware stores are packed right now with annuals for sale. No pre-planning, no winter wait necessary. The annual plants I like best for bees include

Cosmos (Cosmos spp.)
California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)
Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena)
Portulaca (Portulaca spp.)
Blue anise sage (Salvia guaranitica)
Profusion zinnias (Zinnia spp.)

 Shrubs don’t require much attention. Elderberry, Sumacs and Summersweet all grow like weeds. My Elderberry is all set to bloom in the next month and will be covered with beautiful white flowers for weeks.
bee on Elderberry

Lavenders are always recommended. Huge lavender farms provide for bees that then create lavender honey. I cannot grow it, but I have neighbors who can. The ubiquitous Crape Myrtle is a great bee favorite. My white Crape Myrtle hums with hundreds of bees on hot summer days.

Many trees are loved by bees. My almond was swamped with bees during March. Fruit trees are of course not only loved by bees, but the bees are necessary for fruit to set properly. Redbuds do not do well for me but they are ablaze right now in the supermarket parking lot and on the side of the road; they are a valuable bee tree since they bloom so early. I love Maples, Willows and Alders for later in the year–as do bees.
When ‘bee’ trees and plants are provided, the bees dine on nectar. Nectar provides the proteins, carbohydrates lipids, vitamins, minerals bees need; the same list humans need actually. Nectar supports the worker bees’ active lifestyles–and that includes flying miles and miles from their hive to collect food.
The bees use nectar to make honey. A bee sips nectar and an enzyme in the bee’s stomach then converts the nectar into watery honey. This watery honey is fanned by bees with their wings until it thickens. The honey is then stored in honeycomb and sealed with wax that comes from wax glands on the bees’ abdomens.

The bees don’t mind work.

bee on yellow troutlily

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