When I first started beekeeping, I had this grand plan that I could add more flowers to my hillside garden and my bees – on cue – would be all over them.
My bees had a different idea.
A co-worker who lives across Interstate 44 from my house started telling me she was finding my bees in her well-planted garden.
I didn’t think much about it until a few days later when I was sitting at the top of my driveway pulling weeds. As I looked down, I could see bees hopping across flowers as they made their way up the slanted driveway, then dipping around, and over my head as they made – well, a beeline – to Becky’s house.
Honeybees can fly. Some literature says up to 2 miles from their hives, others say up to 5 miles, which could be a round trip total.
They pack a lot of calories in the honey they make, and eat, so they can sustain the distance. I am convinced, having been literally run into by a number of incoming bees, that some qualify for speeding tickets. Scientists have clocked them at top speeds of 15 mph.
It takes more energy to make it back since most of them are “packing pollen” in their leg pouches. The pollen is an important protein for baby bees, and even more life-affirming for flowers since flowers depend on pollen getting moved for their reproduction and survival.
Bees will collect pollen from almost any plant but they do have favorites. Bees prefer blue, yellow and white flowers, as opposed to hummingbirds and butterflies, who prefer flowers in the pink to purple range.
According to "The Hive and the Honey Bee" by Dadant and Sons, the following are favorite honeybee flowers. A number of them are native wildflowers: asters, basil, blackberry, button bush, catmint, chickweed, chicory, red and white clover, coneflower, dandelion, goldenrod, honeysuckle, locust, milkweed, (yikes) poison ivy and poison oak, privet, redbud, sage, sumac and thyme.
In terms of fruits and vegetables, honeybees are fond of cantaloupe, cucumbers, gourds, melon, pumpkin, soybeans, lima beans, squash, apples, apricots, cherries, peach, pears and plums.
Wild bees, such as bumblebees, are partial to tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and lavender. Commercial vegetable growers often depend on native bee populations to pollinate their greenhouse tomato and peppers.
I had an especially good crop of baby bumblebees this year, literally dozens of them flying around my flowering catnip and catmint.
Even though my honeybees may not seem to pay attention to what I am planting, I know they're watching. I barely get a plant out of the trunk before there's a buzzing scouting party checking out the goods.
For best results, I plant clumps of same-species flowers together. I also try to get a variety so I have something blooming all of the time.
Page 2 of 2 - Even if you don't have bees, you can help by providing additional pollen and nectar sources in your own garden.
If you forget to take this list to the next garden center you visit, don't worry. Look around and just follow the bees.
Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a certified gardener sharing gardening tips in a changing climate at http://www.gardeningcharlotte.com. Copyright 2013 used with permission by Rolla Daily News - St. James Leader Journal - Waynesville Daily Guide. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at chargardens@ gmail.com.