Planting is one of the most important tasks a conservation minded beekeeper can do. Feeding bees sugar syrup really isn’t ideal. What we really want to do is to make sure there are plenty of foraging sources for the bees to make honey for their own use, especially as Winter approaches.
I recommend perennials over annuals because if the person planting, be it a beekeeper or a interested person happens to not have the money, time or other resources to re-plant annuals every Spring, the bees will suffer that year. Perennials will keep coming back whether the person planting comes back the next season or not.
We want to keep in mind to plant something that blooms each season, Spring, Summer and Autumn. Spring and Autumn are especially important as that is the first food and last food bees will get a chance to forage for.
Omaha is listed as being a Zone 5 “Hardiness Zone”, as designated by the USDA, which is the main focus of this wiki article. Meaning, the information and numbers provided should be mostly relevant to our area.
A hardiness zone (a subcategory of Vertical Zonation) is a geographically-defined area in which a specific category of plant life is capable of growing, as defined by climatic conditions, including its ability to withstand the minimum temperatures of the zone.
Bee Flowers Around Omaha/Metro Area:
Dandelions: Grows everywhere.Let these wonderful flowers grow in bountiful amounts. High in both nectar and pollen, this is some of the first food our honey bees will have access to in the Spring.
Milkweed: Grows in fields, along road-sides, streams and forest edges, flowering in June and July.
Sweet Clover: Found along roadsides, in fields and other disturbed ground, flowering from June through October.
Smartweed: Near water in marshes and ditches, flowering from June through September.
Basswood (Tilia, Linden) flowering in June and July, Also known as Bee-Tree, because bees swarm the abundant flowers in season to produce a honey with a desirably distinctive taste
Purple Loosestrife: Grows near water, flowering in July and August.
Astor: (AKA Sheperd’s Purse, Pennycress and Pepper grass) Found along roadsides and on waste ground, flowering from April through September.
Goldenrod: “Rigid”-Found in dry to moist well-drained prairie sites, flowering in August and September. “Late”-Found on floodplains, along roads, fields and other sunny areas, flowering in August and September.
Marigold: Found along roads and ditches, flowering in August and September.
Cucumber: May – Frost
Melon: June – Frost
Pumpkin: June – Frost
Boneset: Moist stream sides and ditches, flowering in July and August.
Sunflower: Found on disturbed sites, especially fields and roadsides, flowering from July through September.
Ironweed: Grows on floodplains and in upland prairies and woodlands, flowering in July and August.
Vetch: “Canada Milk Vetch”-Moist prairies and woodland edges, flowering in July and August; “Crown Vetch”-Grows in fields and roadside edges, flowering in June and July.
About those “weeds”
Did you know some of those so called ‘weeds’ that you try to kill in your yards are actually very good sources of nectar and pollen for honey bees? Dandelions, clover, blackberries, aster and many others are good foraging resources for honey bees.
Flowers and bees
In terms of flowers, most of your long petal flowers don’t do much for honey bees as they aren’t able to get to the nectar and/or pollen as easily. This is because of the length of the bees proboscis isn’t long enough to reach into the center to get to them. Short petal flowers are much better for honey bees.
Other bees like bumble bees have a longer proboscis with which to get to those long petal flowers.
In the meantime, I would like to direct your attention to some links directly addressing some topics related to growing and pesticide use in general as related to beekeeping.
Northern Nectar Sources for Honey Bees. Wikipedia. For those visiting this page, this link will list a number of plants and how good of a nectar source they are or aren’t for honey bees. Nectar is important to bees as it is the base for making honey, which is the honey bees main food source.
Pollen Sources Similar to the link above, this is a list of plants and how good of a source of pollen they are for honey bees. Pollen is just as important to bees as nectar because it is what is used to feed new bees.
Pesticide use in your yard or garden
Pesticides can’t harm honey bees if they aren’t used. For many people though, that’s not likely to happen.
If you do use pesticides. applying them at night, after sunset is least harmful to the bees, especially if on a calm, warm night that allows the pesticide to dry quickly and not drift.
The list of pesticides in the link below will tell you how harmful to bees many pesticides are and offers information on their usage.
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