Well, since the weather has warmed back up, the honeybees have been in a frenzy. Saturday and Sunday, there were energetic waggle dances on the landing board, indicating there was something good nearby. On one of our neighborhood walks, I closely observed trees in the landscape. Sure enough, looks like the maple has begun to bloom! In our area, maple (red/swamp maple) is one of the earliest sources of nectar. If you’re in a swampy area, you may also have willow available to you. Ti-ti, willow and red maple all bloom in a range of January to March, making a good nectar flow that is perfect for sustaining the spring build-up of honey bee larvae.
Our cherry laurel is loaded with buds, meaning that it will be a huge attractant when those blooms pop open. In years past, the tree has been alive with their buzzing. The first major source of nectar that will also provide surplus honey in your hives is the well known Ilex Glabra, or Gallberry. Gallberry is a type of holly native to our Gulf Coast highways and by-ways. In fact, most hollies provide nectar for honeybees. Last year, someone called me about a potential swarm near the entrance to their home. When I arrived, there was a large and heavenly smelling holly bush. The honeybees had all gone home but several solitary bees and wasps were still feasting on the sweet nectar.
Some smaller plants that will attract honeybees are: coral vine (year round blooms), redbud, abelia, ligustrum and yaupon. If you’re on the Gulf Coast, these sources probably already thrive near your home or in your landscaping. One trait that makes each of these plants desirable for honeybees is a mass quantity of blooms. Honeybees favor trees and shrubs for nectar sources because they can gather a large amount of nectar or pollen without leaving the source. One plant with thousands of blooms is better than a thousand plants spaced around with single blooms. Our apis mellifera are efficient creatures!
If you don’t have any of the plants I’ve mentioned in your yard, don’t despair. One reason that honeybees do so well in the urban landscape is because there is such a large variety of nectar sources. You’re far less likely to get what is known as a “mono-source” honey, but far more likely to get a deliciously floral and fragrant blend that’s made up of the goodness that surrounds you.
If you’d like to see more nectar sources, here are some links I have gathered. Enjoy!
A sensory view of pollination. How do flowers attract pollinators?
Since pollinators see differently than we do, take a look at how different blooms look to the flying creatures in your landscape: http://www.naturfotograf.com/UV_flowers_list.html