Learning about pollinator flowers for bees is an intriguing discovery into their codependent relationship and how we can help.
Blooms and Bees – A Love Story
Blooms and bees have cooperated with each other for as long as they’ve been here. They need each other. The flower needs the bee, as well as other pollinators, as much as the bee needs the flower.
It’s a beautiful relationship that I enjoy watching year after year. We need this relationship to stay healthy so that our species can also thrive. The health of our plants and environment rely on pollinator flowers for bees, and bees for pollinator flowers.
The bees and flowers need each other and their symbiotic relationship serves all life on earth.
A Flower – Dressed for Success
Flowers can do some wild things to attract the bees. Everything from the color of a flower to its shape, and scent is designed to attract pollinators like bees and butterflies.
The bees heed the calling and rush over to collect the bounty. They go back to their colony and tell all of their sisters about this food source. In turn, they spread the pollen so the flowers can produce fruit, vegetables, and seeds. It’s a beautiful co-dependent relationship and approved by Mother Nature.
Pollen Power and Nectar
Some flowers produce pollen only, like camellia. Others produce nectar only, like buckwheat. There are flowers that produce both pollen and nectar, like dandelions, good early spring blossoms that are great pollinator flowers for bees and butterflies too.
There are few native plants for pollinators with nectar or pollen in the winter, which is why bees store honey. They can only store honey when there’s an excess of nectar.
A worker bee will find a source of nectar and use its straw-like tongue of a proboscis to suck nectar out of the bloom. It stores this nectar in its honey gut and brings it back to the beehive. It passes the nectar to another worker bee who further processes it in their honey gut. Then, the honey is placed in a comb cell and capped for later use.
Dandelions are an early spring pollinator flowers for bees and produces both pollen and nectar.
Spring Nectar Flow
In the early spring (here in the south – it may be later spring in colder climates) something amazing happens between the blooms and the bees. Nature provides an abundance of plants for pollinators that are full of both pollen and nectar.
In spring, native plants provide bees with an abundance of nectar and pollen, called a nectar flow.
Bee Bread for Baby Bees
When pollen and nectar are plentiful, the honeybee workers can make an abundance of bee bread. Bee bread is a mixture of pollen and nectar that honey bees feed their brood.
When there are plenty of plants for pollinators and the bees have an excess of bee bread the queen is signaled to lay eggs at her highest rate (up to 2000+ eggs per day)! This builds the colony’s population so it will have more workers to gather more food.
Abundant bee food signals to the queen bee to lay more eggs.
What NOT to Plant for Pollinators
It is important for the bees to have good sources of pollen and nectar. Ornamental trees, such as the Bradford pear may produce pollen, however it has little to no nutritional value to the bee.
The Bradford pear does not waste its energy on nutritional pollen because it does not make fruit. A similar thing happens with GMO and hybrid plants which also do not require pollination from the bees.
The pollen of ornamental trees, such as the Bradford pear has little to no nutritional value for bees.
Protecting Our Pollinators
There are many things we can do — and not do — to help the blooms and the bees.
- Don’t kill the dandelions
- Try not spray your yard or blooms with pesticides or herbicides.
- Remember: If it kills insects, it kills bees.
- Even organic neem oil and diatomaceous earth will kill bees.
- Herbicides kill the plants that bees depend on the most, such as the dandelion.
When You Must Use Sprays
We’re not saying never to use any of these products. We understand the need to protect your crops from pests. However, it’s best for you, your plants, nature and the ecology of your yard, garden and beyond to employ them sparingly. Use only when necessary, and be sure to read and understand the directions before use.
Many pesticide and herbicide products suggest using at night when the bees are not foraging. Many also instruct the user to keep pets and children away from the product for a certain amount of time. So read up on the product instructions and consequences before deciding whether to apply it.
- Plant Flowers, Shrubs and Trees
- Pollinator flowers for bees in a variety of colors.
- A bee garden or pollinator garden with a variety of plants.
- Definitely plant fruit-bearing trees and shrubs which have some of the best pollinator flowers for bees.
- Plant dandelions… (or let them grow if you already have them in your yard).
- Plant perennial plants for the greatest return on your investment.
- Herbs and plants in the mint family
- Native wildflowers, such as black eyed susans
Pollinator Flowers for Bees
The Mighty Dandelion
While many people view dandelions as their nemesis and wage war each spring with herbicides to get rid of them, dandelions are wonderful food for pollinators.
This lion of a plant is the first abundant source of both pollen and nectar in many areas. Dandelion are also nutritious food for us and for the soil.
Did you know that dandelion plants replenish soil with much needed nitrogen and help with aeration? Yes, nature knows what it is doing and will fertilize your lawn as a reward for leaving the dandelion.
RELATED: Dandelion health benefits
The “lowly dandelion” is a lion of an herb, packed with powerful nutrients and for health and healing.
Clover Plants for Pollinators
Clover is another perennial herb that provides excellent pollinator flowers for bees. Also considered a lawn weed, clover flowers provide nectar and pollen for bees.
Pollinator Flowers for Bees Include Fruit and Nut Trees
Fruit and nut trees are great sources of nectar and bee flowers. Many have both pollen and nectar in large supply. A worker bee will visit more than a million blooms to produce one tablespoon of honey in its six weeks of life.
The more nectar-producing blooms, the better. Think about how much effort it would take a bee to get their food from small flower pots on your porch. Now think about how easy it would be for an entire colony to get food from one tree.
Flowering Ground Covers for Bees
Flowering ground covers, like verbena are a lovely way to get a large number of blooms for the bees as they cover your lawn or hard-to-grow areas. They make a brilliant purple statement as well as a lovely tea. There are also edible ground covers with medicinal benefits, including clover.
Cover Crops – Plants for Bees
Cover crops are also used in tandem to help bees while they replenish soil. Many farmers use clover and buckwheat to manage gardens while they are idle.
Cover Crops for Bees
Another great crop to plant for bees for early spring flowers are cover crops. These provide a win-win solution of a field of flowers for the bees, plus nurture your soil with nitrogen and other nutrients.
Earth First Farm, who wrote an article for us on the benefits of cover crops which you can read and see videos about.
A worker bee will visit more than a million blooms to produce one tablespoon of honey in its six weeks of life
Buckwheat Cover Crop for Bees and Soil!
Gardening With Greg by HossTools provides a great 3:10 minute video demonstration and explanation of using buckwheat as a cover crop that’s good for the soil and includes pollinator flowers for bees.
Your Local Agricultural Extension Service
If you need more help, the best source for up-to-date information about the blooms and the bees is your state’s agriculture department. They’re incredibly supportive of natural ecosystems and knowledgeable about your specific area.
In my home state, Alabama’s Department of Agriculture has AG Exchange offices all over the state for more specific and hands-on resources. The ag office can also refer you to a local beekeeping group or master gardening group.
These organizations work in tandem to rebuild and protect ecosystems while supporting your gardening and beekeeping education. Your local extension office can provide the most accurate information for your individual region to help you help nature work at its peak potential.
The Blooms and the Bees
Beyond beauty and honey, the blooms and the bees help our entire environmental ecosystem survive. We can be good stewards of them by planting fruit and nut trees, nutritious flowers, and omitting pesticides and herbicides. We can join them in their efforts to stay healthy as they provide us with the food we need to survive and thrive.
Butterflies, Hummingbirds and Other Pollinators
Other important pollinators include butterflies and hummingbirds, which we’ve written more about here on best plants for attracting butterflies. And on hummingbirds, food and feeders. Other beneficial insects include the enchanting hummingbird moth.
Bacteria does not grow in honey; therefore, it does not spoil and can be stored indefinitely.
Shannon DeAnna Schofield, is an avid beekeeper, gardener, poet and author steadily building her homesteading dream. Shannon is happiest out in nature, in the garden and tending her bees. She talks to them, reads poetry to them and treats them like family. 🐝🍯😇🌺
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