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Bee plant survey results

In the attached .pdf files, you will find the results of the Honey Bee Suite Bee Plant Survey that you answered at the end of November 2014. In that survey, I asked where you lived and which plants you actually saw bees foraging on—both honey bees and native bees.

The list is unique because it is not theoretical as in “your bees should like this.” Instead it was derived from actual observations of current beekeepers. I did not distinguish between nectar plants and pollen plants, but only considered whether they were bee popular plants.

The lists below are sorted in various ways. The master lists contain all the listed plants alphabetically according to common or scientific name. There is a USDA Hardiness Zone list, and lists for geographic areas as well as individual states and provinces. If your area is not represented, it is because no one from your area answered the survey.

When selecting bee plants, remember that local variations known as micro-climates will affect how well a particular plant grows. Also remember that when a bee forages, she is highly influenced by what else is in bloom. A plant that is very popular with bees in one locale may not be as popular in a place where other more tempting plants are growing. The bees will pick their favorites from the choices available to them.

As I studied the original survey answers, it was obvious that a certain handful of plants are almost universally popular, whereas others are only popular in specific areas. Rainfall, temperature, soil type and a host of other factors can have a huge effect on the amount of nectar and pollen a plant can produce.

In any case, I hope you find the survey useful. Again, I wish to thank Miriam Valere for doing the bulk of the work, including looking up the scientific names, hardiness zones, finding sources of information and photographs, and then organizing and typing the whole thing.

So here are the lists. Let me know what you think.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

Plant lists sorted in various ways:

Master Plant List by Scientific Name – US

Master Plant List by Common Name – US

Master Plant List by USDA Hardiness Zone

Plant List by Geographic Region – combined

Plant list by Individual States

Master Plant List by Scientific Name – Canada

Master Plant List by Common Name – Canada

Plant List by Province – Canada

Note: The international list is still to come.

Bee-on-flower-Pixabay
Bee nectaring on a flower. Pixabay public domain photo.

Comments

harold meinster
Reply

I put some of my honey collection under a microscope. I have many types of pollen. I cannot determine what plants these pollen’s belong to.

Is there a data base of pollens that would help to catalog the pollens that are in my honey.

Any suggestions?

Rusty
Reply

Harold,

I’ve heard of some databases that are in the process of being assembled, but I don’t have the specifics. It’s a good next project for me to try to assemble a list of resources. I will work on that.

Jane Peters
Reply

Thank you so much for the plant list. May I have your permission to show /offer this to our bee club here in BC ??

Best Regards from a very snowy Interior of BC.

Jane

Rusty
Reply

Yes, Jane. And thank you for sharing it.

sharon
Reply

Thank you Rusty and Miriam for doing this! I have spent hours trying to answer this question for my region by searching the net. I appreciate that this is not theory a but bee-tested list.

I appreciate the information I have found on this site. You provide an awesome service to bees and beekeepers.

Virtual hugs,
Sharon

Rusty
Reply

Thank you, Sharon!

Stephanie
Reply

My bees, native and honey, loved my mums this year. I even planted new ones last fall for them. I think it was the last chance for them to gather pollen, and they did.

Meriel
Reply

Rusty,

We have often been told that not all varieties or cultivars of the same plant are of equal attractiveness to bees. This was brought home to me last summer when i went to a local garden centre/nursery to buy a Sedum for my garden. I arrived with a particular variety in mind and went to find the Sedum display. One variety was covered with bees, the rest were being largely ignored. Needless to say, I came home with a different variety than the one originally intended. It is called “Brilliant”. And it is.

This is a technique I intend to use again when selecting plants for my garden.

Rusty
Reply

Meriel,

It certainly is true that not all varieties or cultivars are equal. Usually, the more highly bred they are, the lower the attractiveness for bees. Heirloom varieties are often your safest bet.

But I have selected plants at the nursery with the most bees, only to have them ignored at home. Feeding bees is a little like feeding teenagers.

Morris
Reply

Rusty, This is very impressive. By far the most complete list of bee friendly plants I’ve seen. Well organized and practical. WELL DONE.

Morris

Rusty
Reply

Thank you, Morris. And thanks for responding to the survey.

Bill
Reply

Rusty,

Good job putting this together and presenting the data in a very usable format.

Bill

Miriam Valere
Reply

Happy gardening everyone! Rusty, thanks for letting me help you with this project. I really enjoyed researching all the plants (and was envious of some of the REALLY fantastic plants in other zones that I wasn’t familiar with)!

This project reinforced my underlying belief that to have healthy bees and other pollinators, we MUST have a diverse plant-filled eco-system for their forage. In my community, there is a growing movement towards urban beekeeping, which I think is great—but without good forage for those urban bees it will be a struggle. If everyone planted just a few plants that are good for bees, it would vastly improve their chances to thrive.

You can find some good info at http://pollinator.org/guides.htm or here http://www.xerces.org/pollinator-conservation/plant-lists/ as well.

Rusty
Reply

And thank you again, Miriam. I would never have gotten it done on my own.

Ken
Reply

There are so many missing for TN. Is it too late to add them? I keep a log of bloom dates every year for at least the last 4 years.

Rusty
Reply

Ken,

Go ahead and send me the information. I suppose we could do an update.

willowcreekhoney
Reply

Wow! What a project. Thanks for your and other’s hard work. I have been invited to speak and demonstrate beekeeping and pollination plants for our area for the master gardeners seed swap. I would like to have your permission to use some of this data you have compiled for this up coming project.

We also had our first of the year beekeepers meeting. It went very well. I am glad to report that many of our first year beekeepers have thus far successfully overwintered their hives. I am going to include a link to this post in my next e-mail to our group. (This group is included in the latest newsletter from the W.A.S. Organization).

Thanks again.

Rusty
Reply

Ken,

Yes, please use the data for your project. And thanks for linking to it. Much appreciated!

Mark Whitnell
Reply

Rusty,

Do you have any information about how many BTUh a bee inside a colony will generate per lb of bees? A person of perhaps 150lb will generate dancing, about 270 Btuh sensible and 580 Btuh latent. I was thinking maybe a good colony would weigh about 5lbs. So 30 colonies would be one person dancing, so about 850Btuh/30 colonies. So you can put 500 colonies in a 53ft overtheroad truck container; so 500 colonies/30= 17people * 850Btuh = 14,000Btuh or a little over ton of AC. Do you think this may be close?

Next, a person working hard generates about .33 cu meters/hr of CO2. So using the same logic, 17 people or 500 colonies * .33 = 5.6cu meters/hr of CO2…Using this info for transporting bees coast to coast. Mark

Rusty
Reply

Mark,

I’ve seen these estimates, but I don’t remember where. I think, though, your estimate for weight is low. Three-pound packages are not very big, so I think a normal-sized colony would be closer to 10 pounds. Just guessing.

Michael Lowe
Reply

Hello! I am about to enter my fourth year of beekeeping. I’ve been looking back over photos and notes from the first three, and I have a question: Is it possible that there just is not enough food for my bees in the area surrounding my back yard? I am surrounded mostly by residential housing, with each house offering small patches of back yard gardening, a few flowering foundation plants, and an occasional apple tree. There are no large fields of open grass with wildflowers nor any cultivated flowering plant fields within three or four miles in any one direction. I do have two heavily wooded ridges, both within a half mile. As a result, I’ve always told myself that there are so many trees that there must be a number of locusts and maples and other varieties to offer up lots of pollen and nectar. Yet in each of my three prior years my hives have followed the same pattern – decent build up of population in the late spring, and by July perhaps one brood box mostly full of honey, a nice thick band of honey stored around brood spaces in many of the other boxes, and a decent pattern of pollen. And then a steady slide downwards in terms of honey stores – and sometimes of pollen. I’ve never had a super full of honey that I thought I could take. I’ve robbed a few frames from the edges, but only six or so quarts in total over three years. When I hear of the “Spring Flow” and the beekeepers who can take multiple supers off their hives I wonder “Why not me?” “Why don’t my hives ever have excess honey?” “Could my hives just be in a bad place?” “Should I only have one hive, instead of three, so as to maximize what food is available?”

Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Michael

Rusty
Reply

Wow, Michael, this question is in the too-hard-to-answer category. But I will start by saying I think it would be unusual to live in a place with not enough flowers. Rooftop beekeepers in the big cities are collecting enough to sell or serve in their restaurants, so it seems unlikely that you don’t have enough flowers in a residential area.

All those trees are probably the key to a good honey crop. The problem with most trees, at least where I live, is that they blossom really early. So to get a good honey crop, you need to build up your bees before the bloom, not on the bloom.

You say your bees are showing a good build-up in late spring, but you need to get a good build up in very early spring, if you want to take advantage of the trees.

I can’t remember (or I never knew) how you feel about sugar syrup, but if you are not opposed to feeding syrup, you could start feeding a 1:1 syrup any time now to try to get the populations exploding much sooner than you did in the past.

I actually try to do that here where I live because I’m surrounded by state forest lands. Unless I get a crop off the early-blooming maples, bitter cherry, and cascara, I won’t have a good honey year because it’s basically just trees and a few weeds that grow along the logging roads. Usually, I get thwarted anyway because our rainy season doesn’t end until June, so often the bees can’t get out, but I try anyway. Some years it pays off.

Fewer hives is probably not the answer. It seems logical at first, but what if you got rid of one hive while some neighbor a quarter mile away adds three? You just can’t control how many colonies are working your area, so I wouldn’t go that route.

Just use your management skills to make big colonies. If the bees are not bringing home pollen, you can add a pollen substitute, but I think that is rarely necessary. Pollen is usually early and plentiful, but you can tell by watching them for a few minutes.

As soon as the bees start bringing in nectar from the field, take away all the syrup so they can’t store any. After the syrup is removed, add your honey supers and keep your fingers crossed.

Once the colonies begin getting big, you will need to watch for swarming. Checkerboard, open the brood nest, pyramid—do whatever is necessary to keep them home. If one is lagging, you can try equaling the brood frames to get them all bursting from the seams.

Take off the honey as it accumulates. You can store some in case you need it later, but some colonies seem to do better if they don’t have to waste a lot of time looking for a place to put the nectar, and if they are not honey-bound, they are less likely to swarm. If it truly is tree honey they collected, it probably won’t granulate anytime soon, so you can wait until later to decide how much to extract and how much to keep.

A decline in honey production and colony size is to be expected after the solstice at the end of June. Usually by then the days are hot, the major nectar crops are done, and the days are getting shorter. The bees will continue to gather what they can and are usually able to store enough for winter on the fall bloom. If not, you can always replace some of the honey you took off, whether it is extracted or not.

Doug Zeringue
Reply

Rusty,

I live in south Louisiana and I am preparing to delve into beekeeping. I have built a top-bar hive after doing extensive research on dimensions, etc. taking into consideration all the suggestions and considerations given by all who have posted. I think I have a good design for my climate, and hope to prove it this spring. I am hoping to catch a swarm in the next couple of weeks. If it proves to be good, I will be more than happy to post some pictures and such for others to see.

In addition, I plan to get or build some Langstroth type hives as I am hoping to do a cut-out from a shed owned by a friend and cut-outs seem to work better in the Langstroth hives. I am sure I will learn much in the near future.

In my preparation, I stumbled upon your website. I have read every blog post you have put here. I also read many of the comments, but not all, and I go back and read more as I can. I enjoyed them very much and have found many things I had not thought to consider. I am just as determined as I was before.

In my preparation, I have also been paying attention to the flowering plants here, and when I saw the results of the plant survey, I saw a list of no less than fifteen plants. Then I started thinking about all the plants that I did not see on the list. I made a list of plants I have, or have had, including garden vegetables, flower beds, and fruit trees I have planted. On my own property, (a house, a shed, and a garden on a double lot in a residential subdivision), and my nearest neighbors, I counted ninety-eight species that are not on the Louisiana list. All in all, with just those plants I remember, without looking at any reminder materials, I made a quick list of a total of 162 additional plant species that does not appear on the list. I was raised on a farm here, and spent long hours on the outdoors, so I guess I notice more types of plants than most.

Would you want me to share my list with you in the hopes of making a more inclusive list for Louisiana?

Rusty
Reply

Doug,

I would be happy to see photos from your bee adventures. As for the bee plants, I’m keeping a list of updates. To be included in the list, you must have actually have seen bees foraging on the flowers and you need to tell me what kind of bee it was: honey bee, bumble bee, or native bee (unless you know the native bee, then tell me that.)

Doug Zeringue
Reply

Rusty,

Per your requirements, I have gone back to my list to include those plants on which I can positively identify the pollinator. I originally included all plants I have seen bees on, but many of them I have forgotten which bees were on them. I will begin with those I have seen honey bees on so far since winter began here. I began noticing honey bee activity since early February. I have actually seen honey bees collecting from: White Dutch clover, Meyer lemon, Laurel cherry (Prunus caroliniana), Rapini (Brassica rapa), Common chickweed, Carolina jasmine, Vetch, Carolina geranium (Geranium carolinianum), Blackberry, Lesser trefoil (Trifolium dubium), Red maple (Acer rubrum), Silver maple (Acer saccharinum), and Dandelion.

These are just the ones I saw recently. I will be able to add to this list in the very near future as willows, oaks, vegetables, herbs, and other fruiting trees are popping out all over now.

Rusty
Reply

Doug,

Sounds great. I will add them to the list.

Doug Zeringue
Reply

Rusty,

The last couple of weeks have turned out to be quite busy for me, but in that time, I made a swarm collection box, helped my brother capture a swarm in a park, placed my top bar hive in its spot, and managed to have seen honey bees collecting from an additional sixteen plants. There are some other bees that have been collecting from some of these, but I am particularly interested in those plants visited by honeybees. I saw honey bees collecting from: apple, blueberry, broccoli, American holly, yaupon holly (ilex vomitoria), mustard, Bradford pear, common pear, wild black cherry (prunus serotina), mayhaw, arugula, cabbage, henbit, lime, orange, satsuma, and primrose.

Rusty
Reply

Thanks, Doug. You are certainly doing just what you promised.

Doug Zeringue
Reply

Rusty,

I have made a few more observations of honey bees on plants I have not yet reported, and as I go through some of my past photos and videos, I run across an occasional record of honey bees I had forgotten that I had, and some that I recorded to show people bees working the blossoms in my yard. As I observe the bees working the blossoms on my citrus trees, I can’t remember a citrus tree that didn’t have bees practically covering them while they are flowering. Citrus trees I have not reported to you yet include: grapefruit, kumquat, mandarin, mock orange, and trifoliata (used as rootstock for grafting). Some of these are flowering now, and some of them will be flowering within the next few weeks. The honey bees love them.

From memory, I recall several plants the honey bees frequent every time I have seen them in bloom. Sweet corn, Confederate jasmine, mermaid roses, and crape myrtle, all of these are growing or have grown in my yard or my neighbors’ yards and attract honey bees. Although these are not flowering at this time, they will be shortly, and the honey bees will be working them.

For this next group, I have several pictures and videos on both my iPad and my iPhone. Historically, each year, some of the vegetables I grow go to seed, which the bees love. Last year I let some radishes and cauliflower go to seed. The honey bees were all over them. I also have pictures of honey bees all over the blossoms on my guava tree that I have growing in my yard. And, later in the summer months, I recorded the honey bees in pictures and videos collecting pollen and nectar from a pink coral vine (I think it is Mexican in origin) and a local weed that we always called bloodweed, that I recently learned is known as giant ragweed (a great late summer sorce of pollen).

This list isn’t anywhere near complete as to what the honey bees use for food, but I will continue to report more plants as I see the bees collecting.

Doug

Doug Zeringue
Reply

Rusty,
I know you thought you’d lost me, or that I had lost interest, but I am still here and still visiting your blog periodically.

In the last month, I have not noticed many more plants foraged by bees, but I have been able to do a few more things to lead me further along the path to be a beekeeper. I got a couple of Langstroth hives, beekeeping jacket with hood, gloves, and a pink hive tool. I also performed a “cut-out” where I removed a colony from the wall of a structure and relocated it into a Langstroth hive – quite an adventure. I had good help from one of my brothers and one of my sisters. None of us had done anything like it before, but we mimicked the actions of JP the Beeman. Early signs point to success.

Even though it has been a busy time for me, I did notice two more plants from which the bees are collecting – Magnolia grandiflora and Bottlebrush. I’ll check back in when I see some new developments.

Doug

harold meinster
Reply

I have acquired a list of plants that honey bees in my area like to frequent.
I have listed them and started to place pictures of the plant, flower and pollen that I could gather on line.

Once school is finished in June, I will have some time to put it all together. I have a microscope that I like to see the pollen, but soon I would be able to cross reference the pollen to the plant and what the bees are gathering.

When complete I will share and hope that others will expand on it.

Rusty
Reply

Harold,

That sounds like a fantastic idea. Can’t wait to see it.

Doug Zeringue
Reply

I’m back yet again. Beekeeping has been turning out to be quite the adventure for me. I started out wanting a swarm to populate my top bar hive I built. In the time since I started, in addition to the swarm I helped my brother capture, and the cut-out we did for a lady we know, we smoked a swarm out of a soffit they had settled into, removed an external colony from a pipeline in a chemical plant, and did another cut-out from the soffit of a house of a friend of a coworker. I still have not been able to capture a swarm for my top bar hive, but it still may not be too late. Back to the point of this communication. I have still been trying to observe what the bees are feeding on, though it has been rather busy for me. I had forgotten to report that back in May, the ligustrum (privet) was in full bloom, and the honey bees were all over it. In June, I noticed honey bees collecting from banana flowers that are growing in my yard. At a Fourth of July gathering at my cousin’s house, I was able to confirm presence of honey bees on cantaloupes, watermelons, and sweet basil growing in her garden. Also, there were honey bees on mt crape myrtle and Mexican Coral vine. Then, just two weeks ago, I took a short trip with my sister to where one of my cousins had seen what he originally thought to be a swarm, but turned out to be a colony in a hollow tree. All around the area, there were bees visiting plants bearing small clusters of tiny blue-purple flowers that research revealed to be “Lanceleaf fogfruit”, a plant related to Verbena. Again, these are only plants on which I actually observed honey bees foraging. Hopefully, these will make the cut when you revise the results of this survey.

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