Did you know that trees provide most of the surplus nectar and pollen for bees? Or that 5 or 6 trees produce as much nectar and pollen as a whole field of wildflowers?
Most people don’t. That’s unfortunate because planting a tree, especially in an urban area, is one of the most effective things you can do to help save the bees.
The benefits of planting Black Locust for honeybees have long been recognized. Bees are drawn to the fragrance of the nectar-rich blossoms. An acre of Black Locust is said to produce 800 to 1200 pounds of honey. Moreover, the Black Locust blooms late enough in spring that the blossoms are rarely damaged by frost; thus, it is a reliable annual source for bees.
In Europe the Black Locust tree is considered to be highly prized as an urban street specimen, because it tolerates air pollution very well. The graceful white flower racemes that hang from the branches are extremely fragrant and perfume the air for shopping pedestrians.
The aromatic Back Locust flowers begin blooming in May and are considered edible and tasty like citrus flowers. Ironically, all other parts of the Black Locust tree are poisonous and should not be planted near livestock grazing sites. The lacy leaves are airy and constantly flutter in the slightest breeze. Leaflets can grow about eighteen in number and are attached to a midrib one foot in length. At night the leaves fold up as daylight fades, and likewise, the Black Locust tree leaves will contract during rain. In the Fall the deep green leaves that are silvery green underneath, turn bright yellow, and because of their tiny size do not need raking when fallen on the ground and then disappear in the grass as a fine mulch.
The Black Locust tree is a very fast growing tree that can produce a 4 foot trunk diameter and on old trees can reach 100 feet in height. This fast growing tree characteristic will rapidly enrich poor soils, because the Black Locust tree is a legume, so that nitrogen fixing bacteria grow into root nodules loaded with nitrogen organics. The Black Locust trees are very cold hardy, native American trees that range from the North Georgia mountains to Pennsylvania and then grow Westward to Oklahoma.
In addition to his new varieties, David Austin offers three beautiful bee-friendly roses.
‘Comte de Champagne’ has flowers of a rich yellow coloring which as they open, gradually turn to a pleasing pale yellow. They open to form a perfect open cup, with a ‘mop’ of stamens of deepest yellow; the whole providing a delightful range of color on the bush at one time. The growth is wide, low and bushy, producing its flowers on slender, arching stems. There is a delicious honey and musk fragrance that complements the flower to perfection. Healthy and free flowering.
This rose is named after Taittinger’s finest champagne. The president of Taittinger, M Claude Taittinger, is a descendant of Thibaut IV, Count of Champagne and Brie and who introduced R. gallica Officinalis (The Apothecary’s Rose) from Damascus on his return from the 7th Crusade in 1250. He was a great lover of roses and wrote about them in his poetry.
A tall and rather spreading shrub bearing dainty, coppery-pink flowers with a yellow center and pretty stamens. Its foliage shows signs of its Alba parent and the flowers have attractive, long conspicuous sepals on the opening bud. Hardy and disease-resistant.
It has a soft Musk Rose fragrance.
This is not truly an English Rose but we include it here for convenience as it has connections with our Musk Hybrids. The flowers, which are small and single, are held in very large heads rather like a hydrangea and produced almost continuously from early summer through to the end of the season. The young buds are soft apricot opening to pure white, with a hint of soft lemon behind the stamens. The flowers are followed by small red hips which should be removed to encourage repeat flowering.
It is extremely healthy and completely thornless – an unusual thing among roses. It has a bushy but rather upright habit of growth, making it ideal for the back of a mixed border. A group of two or three or more bushes will provide a mass of white as though they were covered with snow. This rose is particularly suitable for forming a magnificent impenetrable flowering hedge.
We are naming this rose in celebration of the 250th anniversary of Kew Gardens. We are replanting the rose garden behind the famous Palm House, returning it to the layout of 1848 and filling it with a wonderful mixture of English Roses, Old Roses and other shrub roses.
Do bees like roses?
The answer is no. And yes.
Let me explain. Bees like flowers that look and smell good to them.
Bees aren’t generally attracted to red and bright pink flowers. They prefer shades of blue, violet, white, yellow and orange.
They’re put off by lots of big fluffy petals. It’s too hard to get at the nectar and pollen. They prefer flowers with shapes that provide them easy access to the goodies.
Bees are very sensitive to odors, both good and bad. Like people, they are drawn to flowers with a sweet fragrance.
Many modern roses have bunches of tightly closed petals in shades of red and bright pink. Some have little or no fragrance. As a rule, bees don’t like ’em.
But many of the older “heirloom” roses have single or double blossoms that smell heavenly. They have big yellow “bullseyes” that seductively invite bees to visit. Here are a few of my favorites, all from The Antique Rose Emporium:
- New English Garden Bee Plants – “Essence Purple” and “Silver Mist” English Lavender (romancingthebee.com)
Do bees have bad days? Do they get angry? Irritable? Even vindictive?
I don’t know any beekeeper who doubts that bees get grumpy. My bees don’t like wet weather or having their honey taken.
After my spring honey harvest, one extremely pissed off girl chased me for three days until she finally caught me and stung me under my eye. I looked like Popeye for a week.
According to the December 26, 2011 issue of Scientific American, some scientists now believe that bees actually do experience something resembling emotions.
Using simple behavioral tests, Melissa Bateson and her colleagues at Newcastle University in England showed that honeybees under stress tend to be pessimistic, a conclusion few beekeepers would dispute.
Another reason to let our bees be bees and do what they want to, not what we want them to do.
- Book review – The Urban Beekeeper: A Year of Bees in the City, by Steve Benbow (2012) (romancingthebee.com)
No, that’s not the type of Mouse Guard I’m talking about, although they might come in handy as well!
A Mouse Guard is a handy metal device that prevents the Mouse Family from taking up residence in your hive. Mice are bad house guests and make a huge mess. They build nests by eating part of the comb of several frames and filling the holes with grass.
In early fall, mice will enter a hive and mark it with their scent. Once a hive is marked, the mice will return in late fall and hide out until winter. Mice can fit into the large hole of a standard entrance reducer. Small mice can fit into holes the size of a dime.
If you check your bottom board during the winter and find a large number of wings and legs, there is a good chance you have a mouse. If temperatures are extremely low, you may not be able to remove the mouse until spring.
A Mouse Guard is essential if your hives aren’t on the roof. Well, maybe you need one on the roof, too…
You can buy a mouse guard from any beekeeping supplier, or you can make your own.
I ordered my Mouse Guard from Mann Lake. It cost $4.95.
If you want to make your own Mouse Guard, simply cut hardware cloth (metal screen) the width of your entrance and about 7″ tall.
Cut one of the 7″ sides smooth. This will be the bottom. Cut the other side with the small metal bits sticking out. They are sharp, so watch out.
Bend the metal screen into a U, about 3″ from the smooth side. Angle the top spikes facing up, about an inch in from the end.
Mouse Guard Side View
Insert the guard into your hive with the exposed sharp points sticking up. It should be a tight fit, but not dig into the wood.
Mice will not be able to pass through the metal screen, but your bees will. The sharp points on the top will help keep skunks and other pests away.
- Darlington Mouse Guard & hive entrance reducer (wallacefamilyapiary.wordpress.com)