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Why plant trees for bees?

Let us look at why anyone would plant trees for bees. Trees are large long lived plants which owing to their size and extensive root system are capable of withstanding short term weather variations better than annual or even perennial flowering plants. All three types of plants are necessary for bee health and all three have their advantages and disadvantages.

Annuals produce large numbers of flowers quickly each year. Their rapid growth is spurred by the need to produce seed quickly before they are shaded by larger plants or water runs low during dry weather. Rapid growth also aids in recovery as conditions improve.

Photo by A J Hughes
Honeybee on White Clover
Photo by David Hughes
Golden Wingstem

Perennial flowers generally have a deeper taproot and are more resistant to short and moderate dry spells. Because they are longer lived they have the option to shut down prematurely and miss a bloom cycle waiting on more favorably conditions.

Trees are much more resistant to drought conditions and will tend to bloom effectively in spite of the weather. It is possible to miss a bloom cycle with an individual tree species because of weather. A late frost on an early blooming tree or heavy rain during the bloom period, even over cropping the previous year can impact the quality and quantity of bloom on a given species.

Thankfully with trees, there are trees which bloom throughout the warm seasons. Some bloom in turn and others bloom over a long period of time providing forage for bees and other pollinators through the seasons.

Photo by David Hughes
Catalpa in bloom

How to Decide What to Plant

There are questions to answer that help the decision process:

  1. Are you a beekeeper yourself or do you just want bee friendly plants?
  2. If you are a beekeeper, are you planting to make a honey crop?
  3. Are you planting to fill gaps in the forage season?
  4. Are you planting to simply diversify food sources?
  5. Planting for diversity of food sources is only limited by the space available. Filling gaps will require observation of bee activity. Planting for a honey crop will require space and planning.

A continuous  source of bee friendly flowers will help you to do your part to keep your local bees healthy and thriving. Saving bees starts with each of us doing our part by providing food where we can.