Trees For Bees – The Black Locust

black locust tree

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.

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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.

Plant A Tree And Save Some Bees!

Linden Trees

Linden Trees

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.

What types of trees do bees like?

Some of the more common bee-beloved trees are Chestnuts, Hollies, Black Locusts, Hawthorns, Lindens (Limes in Europe), Oaks, Black Gums, Maples, Buckeyes, Mountain Ashes, Catalpas, Dogwoods, Redbuds, Hazels, Magnolias,Poplars, Sycamores, Tulip Trees and Willows.  They also love all types of fruit trees!

All of these trees are available for an amazingly reasonable price (about $6 for many) at The Arbor Day Foundation.  If you become a member, they will send you ten trees for free!

The fact that it’s winter is no excuse for inaction. It’s the best time to plant trees!!

So plant some trees and save some bees. You’ll feel great when you do!!

The Five Plants Bees Love Best

Okay, I’ve accepted that all of you aren’t going to become beekeepers, despite my best efforts to persuade you to don a beesuit and pick up a smoker and a hive tool.

Some of you are allergic.  Some of you just can’t understand how I can enjoy playing with critters that sometimes sting me. Beekeeping isn’t  for everyone, and that’s okay.

So is there anything you can do to help save the bees? Absolutely!

As most of you know, bees collect nectar and pollen from plants for food. They make honey from the nectar. Pollen is their sole protein source (honey bees are vegetarians) and they use it to make food for their young.

Some plants have more nectar and pollen than others. According to  Dr. Vetaley Stashenko, an apiculturist, naturopath and apitherapist, the five top plants to support the honeybees with nectar and pollen throughout the season are Borage, Echium (also called Viper’s Bugloss), Goldenrod, Melissa (also called Lemon Balm), and Phacelia (also called Tansy).

They’re not exactly plants you find at your local nursery.  I had to search a bit to even find seeds for all of them!

But they are quite lovely, and will blend in nicely with the typical English border.

Borage

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borage 2

Borage is a self-seeding, medicinal annual that can over-winter. Young leaves and blue blossoms may be used in salads. It provides spring forage for honeybees, and blooms into the summer.

Echium

echium botanical

echium

Echium aka Viper’s Bugloss is a spring blooming shrub with repeat bloom. Fall bloom provides nectar for bees for overwintering. The most unusual feature of Echium vulgare is the protection of the nectar inside the flower from vaporization (when it’s hot) or flushing away (when it rains). It is why almost for 2 months this plant is a stable source of nectar for bees. Additionally this plant produces nectar throughout the day unlike most plants which produce nectar for a short period of time. If the bees have a good access to Echium they can collect between 12-20 lbs of nectar a day. The concentration of sugars in the nectar vary 22.6-48.3% depending on the quality of the soil, and not on the amount of rain. The honey is light amber in color and very fragrant with a pleasant taste, and does not crystallize for 9-15 months.

Goldenrod

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Goldenrod is a perennial that blooms July through September, and so is important for the timing of a colony preparing for winter. Long bloom period of 25 days; grows anywhere and can be invasive.  Honey is dark amber, strong tasting, rich in protein and high in minerals. Medicinal plant that helps with fungus, especially in urinary tract.

Melissa

lemon balm botanical print

lemon balm

Melissa aka Lemon Balm is a perennial  with a prolonged bloom of 45 – 50 days generally in summer, but with repeat blooming in warmer climates. Delicate honey with very light, pinkish color.

Phacelia

phaeclia

phacelia

Phacelia aka Tansy is one of the best spring forage sources for honeybees.  It’s a perennial that blooms 45-60 days and continuously produces nectar throughout the day. Can be seeded several times per year.

Because the seeds were somewhat difficult to locate, I bought them in bulk.  If you would like some, please let me know and I will send you a gram (about 100 seeds) of each of the five for $10.00.  That is much cheaper than buying five individual packages.

Borage – Beloved By Bees Everywhere

“According to old wives’ tales, borage was sometimes
smuggled into the drink of  prospective husbands 
to give them the courage to propose marriage.”
–  Mary Campbell, A Basket of Herbs

Bee on Borage

Borage is one of the very best bee plants. It’s an annual herb that prefers to be grown in full sun. The edible flowers have a delicate cucumber flavor and make a pretty garnish.

Its nickname is “bee’s bread” because of its nectar-rich blue flowers.  It refills with nectar every two minutes, which is amazingly fast. No wonder bees love it!

Borage in the Border

Borage has been cultivated since the 15th century. In folklore, this lovely herb was thought to bring courage to the heart.

Whether in a border or in an herb garden, borage is a gift of love to your bees!

P.S. Borage is also deer-resistant!