Types of flowers for bees.

Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

My daughter and son-in-law are taking a bee keeping class. They plan on keeping the bees on our property, which is plenty large enough for a few hives. I have volunteered to provide the flowers, being the gardener. I'd like to do a mixed flower garden but I know some flowers make better honey than others so maybe I should be thinking along the lines of planting a crop in one of our pastures. Any thoughts on plants / crops to put in for the bees?

Contra Costa County, CA(Zone 9b)

As a general guide, most of the pasture legumes make pretty good honey. Many are perennial, needing to be seeded just once for several years production. Will you be keeping livestock in the pasture? You will probably want to customize a blend for the animals, simply including whichever legumes are appropriate. Alfalfa makes an almost mint-like honey, many clovers and vetches are good for honey, but not all are OK for livestock. Some plants will tolerate grazing and still produce enough flowers for the bees, as long as the pasture is not over grazed; hungry animals can denude an area until there is nothing growing.
Pollen sources are important, too, even if you are not going to harvest the pollen. The bees need it as a protein source. Many plants in the daisy family are rich in pollen.

As a general rule, honeybees have small tongues, so cannot reach deep tubular flowers. Research flowers, and if it says hummingbirds or butterflies like it, then it might not be the best for honeybees.
Honeybees see blues and into the ultraviolet quite well. This does not rule out red, orange or yellow flowers, though. Many clovers have yellow flowers, and bees visit them quite willingly.

Will it be irrigated pasture? Are there erosion control problems? You might consult with a hydroseeding operation, or a seed wholesaler to get the right blend in a bulk quantity.

There is an odd little legume that grows as a weed in some pastures. Our bees made a really mild honey from it, though it was deep red in color. The plant is one of the Lotus, probably Lotus corniculatus. Grows fairly flat with yellow flowers in a cluster that stands up above the plant.

If you want to establish the pasture as a year round nectar and pollen source, then research which flowers bloom at what time, and is it moisture dependent (back to: Will you be irrigating the pasture?) Many flowers will bloom for a much longer time if they are irrigated. In our warmer zones bees can fly all year round. This can be good or bad. In the winter it is often warm enough for them to fly but not as many flowers in bloom, so they eat more honey than they bring in while searching. If your area is like that you might focus on winter blooming flowers in the pasture.
On the other hand, many areas of CA are so dry from about July through October that very few plants are in bloom then. If that is what it is like in your area, and you can irrigate the pasture, then you might best spend your money and time concentrating on late summer flowers.

Will you be mowing or harvesting the pasture for hay? This can create a dearth of nectar until the plants regrow. Are there alternate sources such as a hedgerow or ditch row where the bees can find enough to eat in between crops?

Remember that honeybees can very willingly fly a quarter mile for food, and can range up to a couple of miles. Look into your surrounding area and see what sources are already available, then customize the pasture to compliment what is already available.
Honeybees need water, but tend not to drink from sources that are too near the hives. If you can arrange a reliable water supply on the opposite side of the pasture to where you keep the hives that can stop the bees from being a nuisance to the neighbors. A stock trough with some floating wood works pretty well.

Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

That gives me a lot to think about.
We don't have livestock so that's not an issue. I have two areas that could be planted in "bee" plants, both have a spigot in range. I have one of the Nelson traveler sprinklers I can use, especially in summer. We're in the country, lots of live oak and scrub in that quarter mile radius so not a lot of help there, although there are blooming natives on the scrub side of the canyon. My daughter said she has a list of good "bee" plants so I think I'll just start looking them up so I can make a good decision on what to plant. Clover may be the best bet, although since it is strictly for the bees I might be able to do something more interesting, like 3 different color flowering plants. You drive by the pasture on your way to the house so pretty would be a plus.
Thanks for the "water" idea, I have a little stock tank pond in my backyard and on hot days there are lots of bees. I think I'll put another one in away from the house so it doesn't get too exciting, especially if I want to have a barbeque, LOL.
Thanks for all the info.

Lake Helen, FL

Check this out:

This bee is disporting herself on an everblooming cultivar of southhern magnolia.

Thumbnail by Reynardine Thumbnail by Reynardine
Provo, UT(Zone 5a)

i didnt think bees would go to corn tassels.. but..when my 1st planting of corn
went into pollen open on the tasssels..wow..there were 1000s of bees hitting there
:) i was pleased..they did nothing for the corn but..i was happy the bees used some of the
pollen.. 2nd planting will get there in about 2 weeks.. will be interesting to see if
bees show up then too...

Contra Costa County, CA(Zone 9b)

Oh, yes, bees will indeed take some pollen from an open, easy to reach source like corn.

Magnolia, TX(Zone 9a)

Oak tree in Huntsville, Tx zone 8a is covered in honeybees working hard..in October.

Thumbnail by kittriana
Contra Costa County, CA(Zone 9b)

Bees will collect certain plant waxes and will seal their hives with it. When the bees use it it is called Propolis. The base material is commonly produced by plants that are protecting their buds through the winter. I think it is most easily seen on Poplar trees. Ever notice how deep brown and waxy the buds can look at times? Many other plants produce it, too.

Lake Helen, FL

In fact, many varieties of corn produce a honeyed smell from their tassels, and I suspect that when the bees stamp their little feet all over them, they shake loose pollen, some to blow on the wind and some to fall on the silks below.

Bidens leucanthemum, the white Spanish needle, was once shunned in Florida as a weed. Now, you can even buy seeds, because it is such a good pollen source for bees.

Thumbnail by Reynardine
Lostwithiel, United Kingdom




These two websites look like they ave some information.

Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

Thanks Ajali, their is some info here.

Menifee, CA(Zone 9a)

I'm very interested in learning whether the honey produced form the pollen from the flowers of theTecoma stans is poisonous, or not, because my neighbor has a LOT of bees (which get their water at several of my birdbaths). I read this thread to see if anyone had said one way or another, but no one has, yet.

This is what I read:

"Honey bees are attracted to it, but-unlike most flowering plants-the *honey produced from* Yellow Trumpetbush's nectar/pollen is POISONOUS." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tecoma_stans

"Yellow trumpet bush (Tecoma stans) ... is poisonous, yet bees are attracted to it. The bees are not killed by Tecoma stans, but *the honey that comes from it IS poisonous.* [Although] animals can ... eat yellow trumpet bush (Tecoma stans) and it does not harm them."

Does anyone know for sure whether honey made from Tecoma stans pollen is safe to eat, or is actually poisonous like I've read . . . ? It is important for anyone concerned about the quality of the honey resulting from their flowers to know for sure!

Spokane, WA(Zone 6a)

Quote from Diana_K :

Honeybees need water, but tend not to drink from sources that are too near the hives.

Didn't know this. This year, throughout the pastures, I am setting up large gravity fed water bowls with jugs (think of pet water dishes) for the bees. But my major concern is how to supply wet mud for my Mason bees? If you have any mud making ideas, I would be most grateful! I have tried keeping an area free of plants below a dripping water fountain but the plants soon take over. These mud supply areas will be far from the house and should need little attention during the season. If you have any workable solutions, I know many orchard owners who would love you!!

Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

You know having a clear muddy area is almost impossible. I know any place there is water on my property weeds soon follow. You would have to microwave the dirt and kill the weed seeds to get clean mud and then it would only be a matter of time before the weeds would return.
Here's funny one, this is a fountain I made, the "Penny Ball". The water sheets over the ball very thin and the bees land on it and drink. When they want to take off they crawl up the ball looking for a dry spot but it just gets wetter on the top of the ball so they slide back down until they can get hold again with they're feet. They have a heck of the time figuring out how to take off.

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Spokane, WA(Zone 6a)

Love your penny ball, what a clever way to feature water in the garden. And I will try throwing the dirt into the microwave. Some things I currently pull out of my oven often looks like dirt, so who would ever be the wiser? I'll just explain I am making mud pies.

Southbury, CT

Phacelia is a great honey plant. You can find the seed if you search online. Plant a nice crop of it.

Sierra Foothills, CA(Zone 8a)

Bees love rosemary. They are busy on them all day long.

This message was edited Apr 22, 2017 7:23 PM

Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

That they do, I have a hedge I made from cuttings a few years back. Rosemary is really easy from cuttings!
You know I think a form of Phacelia grows wild here.

New York City, NY

select single flower tops such as daisies and marigolds, rather than double flower tops such as double impatiens. Double headed flowers look showy but produce much less nectar and make it much more difficult for bees to access pollen.

Halifax, MA(Zone 6a)

These make good bee plants:

Johnny's Selected Seeds: Bee Feed Mix: http://www.johnnyseeds.com/flowers/wildflower-mixes/bee-feed-mix-flower-seed-1397.html?cgid=wildflower-mixes

It includes:
Agastashe foeniculum - Anise Hyssop (P)
Aster novae-angliae - New England Aster (P)
Callistephus chinensis - China Aster (A)
Cheiranthus allionii - Siberian Wallflower (P)
Coreopsis lanceolata - Lanceleaf Coreopsis (P)
Coreopsis tinctoria - Plains Coreopsis (A)
Cynoglossum amabile - Chinese Forget-Me-Not (B)
Echinacea purpurea - Purple Coneflower (P)
Erigeron speciosus - Fleabane (P)
Eschscholzia californica - California Poppy (A)
Gaillardia pulchella - Indian Blanket (A)
Gilia capitata - Globe Gilia (A)
Layia platyglossa - Tidy Tips (A)
Linum perenne - Blue Flax (P)
Lobularia maritima - Sweet Alyssum (A)
Monarda fistulosa - Bergamot (P)
Nemophila menziesii - Baby Blue-Eyes (A)
Papaver rhoeas - Corn Poppy (A)


Johnny's Selected Seeds: Beneficial Insect Attractant Mix: http://www.johnnyseeds.com/flowers/wildflower-mixes/beneficial-insect-attractant-mix-flower-seed-1832.html?cgid=wildflower-mixes

It includes:
Alyssum saxatile - Basket of Gold (A)
Ammi majus - False Queen Anne's Lace (A)
Anethum graveolens - Dill (A)
Cheiranthus allionii - Siberian Wallflower (P)
Chrysanthemum paludosum - Creeping Daisy (P)
Coreopsis lanceolata - Lanceleaf Coreopsis (P)
Coriandrum sativum - Cilantro (A)
Cosmos bipinnatus - Dwarf Cosmos (A)
Dalea purpurea - Purple Prairie Clover (P)
Eschscholzia californica - California Poppy (A)
Foeniculum vulgare - Leaf Fennel (A)
Gilia capitata - Globe Gilia (A)
Iberis umbellata - Candytuft (A)
Liatris spicata - Blazing Star (P)
Leucanthemum X superbum - Shasta Daisy (P)
Lobularia maritima - Sweet Alyssum (A)
Monarda fistulosa - Bergamot (P)
Nemophila menziesii - Baby Blue-Eyes (A)
Rudbeckia hirta - Black-Eyed Susan (P)

This message was edited May 26, 2017 1:13 PM

Halifax, MA(Zone 6a)

Wildseed Farm has a Pollinator Mix.
It includes:
Purple Coneflower...P
Sunspot Sunflower...A
Zinnia Dahlia Mix...A
Rocket Larkspur...A
Indian Blanket...A
California Poppy...AP
Lemon Mint...AP
Baby Blue Eyes...A
Moss Verbena...P
Tropical Milkweed...A
Scarlet Sage...AP
Purple Tansy...A
Sweet William...AP
Plains Coreopsis...A
Butterfly Weed...P
Sweet Alyssum...A
Black-Eyed Susan...AP
Corn Poppy...A
Bishop's Flower...A


And a Western Wildflower Mix.
It includes:
Arroyo Lupine...A
California Poppy...A/P
Scarlet Flax...A
Blue Flax...A
Five Spot...A
Baby Blue Eyes...A
Indian Blanket...A
Shasta Daisy...P
Rocket Larkspur...A
African Daisy...A
Dame's Rocket...P
Black-Eyed Susan...A/P
California Bluebells...A
Bird's Eyes...A
Plains Coreopsis...A
Tidy Tips...A
Corn Poppy...A
Spurred Snapdragon...A
Evening Primrose...A

Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

Thanks for listing the flowers for me. It's pretty amazing I have a lot of them already. I noticed today that the bees really like my ornamental onions. At this point I'm looking for good winter flowering perennials. I have lots of lantana, which is a big hit with the bees year round.

Halifax, MA(Zone 6a)

Here are some Winter-flowering perennials. Better Homes & Gardens Winter Flowers for the South: http://www.bhg.com/gardening/flowers/annuals/winter-flowers/

Winter-Flowering Perennials:

Pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) and violets ((Viola) species) are the go-to standbys for cool-weather blooms. Their engaging "faces" top petals that come in bold or pastel colors. Plant pansies 4 to 6 inches apart in rich, well-drained moist soil in sun or light shade. Water and fertilize them regularly. Remove spent flowers to promote repeat blooms. Although they're perennials, pansies and violets are short-lived because they can't tolerate heat. Some pansy varieties are more heat-tolerant than others; violets take more heat and may reseed.

Pinks (Dianthus species and hybrids) are named not for their color -- although many are pink -- but because the edges of their serrated leaves look like someone cut them out using a pinking shears. The blooms often smell like an aromatic spice, such as nutmeg, ginger, or cinnamon. You can find many types of these short-lived perennials.

China pinks (Dianthus chinensis), that grow in 6- to 12-inch mounds of grasslike blue-green foliage.

Sweet William (D. barbatus) grows taller, up to 2 feet.

Cheddar pinks (Dianthus gratianopolitanus) and maiden pinks (Dianthus deltoides) are also part of the family. Grow them in full to part sun. Hardiness varies by species.

Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum), a fast-growing evergreen shrub for full sun or light shade that offers lots of creamy-yellow flowers. It can reach 10 feet tall and wide and is hardy in Zones 6-9.

Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) shows off clusters of creamy-white flowers in late winter and early spring. It can grow 10 feet tall and wide and is hardy in Zones 5-8.

This message was edited May 28, 2017 3:20 AM

Halifax, MA(Zone 6a)

Also there's:

Alstroemeria (Peruvian lily)
Aster x frikartii
Catmint (Nepeta x faassenii)
Coneflower (Echinacea)
Coreopsis 'Mango Punch'
Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill'
Euphorbia characias wulfenii
Forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica)
Gaillardia x grandiflora
Gaura (G. lindheimeri)
Geum chiloense
Gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia hirta)
Hellebore/Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger)
Japanese andromeda (Pieris japonica)
Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticosa)
Kaffir lily (Schizostylis coccinea)
leatherleaf mahonia (Mahonia bealei)
'Moonshine' yarrow (Achillea)
Penstemon (P. gloxinioides)
Pineapple sage (salvia elegans)
Salvia leucantha
Sea holly (Eryngium amethystinum)
Sedum telephium
Witchhazel (Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena')

Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

I must be a real gardening nut. I have most of these too. I'm going to have to look real close to find something I can look up. There's one . . .I don't know what Kaffir lily is.

*This is so funny - it's Clivia, I have Clivia.

This message was edited May 28, 2017 11:53 AM

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