How to select trees for your bees

First let’s  look at why we would plant trees for bees.

Sourwood trees in bloom

Sourwood trees in bloom

Trees being large, long lived plants are capable of withstanding short term weather variations better than most annual and perennial flowering plants. While all three types of plants are important to bee health, trees have certain advantages.

Annuals produce a large number of flowers quickly  but they are the first to suffer in hot dry weather. Likewise, they are the quickest to recover after a rain.

Perennial and biennial flowers generally have a deeper taproot and are more resistant to short and moderate dry spells. They still succumb to deep drought and heat.

Tulip Poplar Flower

Tulip Poplar Flower

Trees are much more resistant to drought and will tend to bloom effectively in spite of the weather. While it is possible to miss a bloom cycle for an individual tree species due to extreme weather or exhaustion from over blooming, this is unusual.

Thankfully with trees, there are many species, and they bloom at different times during the warm seasons.Some bloom in turn while others bloom over a period of many weeks providing forage for bees over the entire season.

There are many reasons to plant trees for bees. Let’s look at why we are planting trees. What are our goals?

Bee hives

Bee hives

Are we planting for a honey crop? This requires a large scale approach to planting trees. It takes many millions of flowers to produce a super full of honey. Trees are large and provide millions of flowers but, it still takes many trees, just as it takes many acres of flowers to make a honey crop.

American Linden, Little leaf Linden, Korean Bee Bee, Black Locust, Vitex, and Tulip Poplar are candidates for a honey crop.

Are we planting to fill the gaps in other nectar sources? Identifying the gaps in nectar flow can be determined by watching your bees.Are there regular periods each year when your bees are idle? Idle bees signal the queen to slow brood production which leads to weaker bee numbers later in the season.What good is a fall nectar flow if there aren’t enough bees to go get it?

See tree descriptions for bloom times. Flowering Trees

Are we simply diversifying food sources?One of the possible contributors to colony collapse is the narrowing of food sources for bees. Just as we would not thrive on a diet of just one food, bees need a varied diet.A series of trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals blooming throughout the season will give the bees and other pollinators the varied and plentiful diet they need to thrive.

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